.- The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Californiaâs Proposition 8 unconstitutionally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, clearing the way for a possible U.S. Supreme Court hearing on âgay marriage.â
Proposition 8 âserved no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,â the federal court said.
The 2008 California ballot measure garnered 52 percent of the vote. It overturned a previous state Supreme Court ruling which imposed legal recognition of the unions.
Prop. 8 backers may now appeal to a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit or may appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court has never heard a case on same-sex âmarriageâ before but it is believed to be divided on the issue. Many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The rulingâs effects are likely to be limited to California.
Ahead of the decision, Prop. 8 backer Catholics for the Common Good called for a âmassive responseâ by supporters involving e-mails and calls to radio and TV talk shows and letters to the editor of newspapers.
âOur opponents made an unprecedented request that the court give them 24 hours' notice before releasing their decision. They are no doubt rallying their troops and want to make the issue about gays and lesbians,â the San Francisco-based organization said.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8.
However, on Aug. 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the initiative âunconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.â He said it fails to advance âany rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.â
Judge Walker, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, is himself homosexual.
His decision declared several findings of fact, including the claim that religious teachings like those of Pope Benedict XVI âharmâ homosexuals.
The Ninth Circuit appeals court refused today to invalidate his ruling. Prop. 8 backers had requested the invalidation on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship and could have personally benefited from the decision.
Catholics for the Common Good charged that Walkerâs ruling created âan entirely new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship between adults.â
âIn reality, Prop. 8 protected the only decision that unites children with their moms and dads. How can anyone fail to see the value in that for children and society?â