A federal appeals court panel ruled on Tuesday that a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in California violated the Constitution, all but ensuring that the case will proceed to the United States Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel issued its ruling Tuesday morning in San Francisco, upholding a decision by Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who had been the chief judge of the Federal District Court of the Northern District of California but has since retired. The panel found that Proposition 8 ”“ passed by California voters in November 2008 by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent ”“ violated the equal protection rights of two same-sex couples that brought the suit. The proposition placed a specific prohibition in the State Constitution against marriage between two people of the same sex.
But the 2-1 decision was much more narrowly framed than the sweeping ruling of Judge Walker, who asserted that barring same-sex couples from marrying was a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution. The two judges in this case stated explicitly they were not deciding whether there was a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, instead ruling that the disparate treatment of couples under California law since the passage of Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.