Opponents of Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage bill, celebrate on Feb. 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Yesterday marked another milestone in the struggle for marriage equality in the United States. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage — Proposition 8 — was unconstitutional. This was a momentous moment for the thousands of volunteers, marriage equality activist, and gay and lesbian couples that worked tirelessly over the past two years to shed light on the gross infringement Proposition 8 made on the civil liberties of California’s 37 million citizens — gay and straight alike. But after the victory cheers settled, the reality of the court ruling set in.
California’s Court of Appeals spoke out against Proposition 8, but their ruling was so narrowly written that it seems to many legal experts the decision will be the final words on the matter. The 2-1 ruling was pointedly limited to California, and focused on the unconstitutionality of a citizen vote reneging the rights of individuals already granted by state legislation. This was not a decision that cast a wider net on the issue of marriage equality – specifically whether or not it is constitutional for the United State’s Government to deny gay marriage federal recognition. What would force marriage equality onto the National stage, would be a ruling by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, it looks like California intentionally tiptoed around the broader issue of “equal protection under The Constitution” in order to keep the case off the Supreme Court’s docket.
There is no denying what a triumph yesterday was, and how many stood up with pride to take part in the celebration of equality for gay and lesbian couples in California. Every fair-minded decision is another step along the road to full equality. But I would feel remiss if I didn’t also wish for comprehensive decisions that forced the Supreme Court to rule once and for all on the constitutionality of gay marriage.