Prop. 8 decision cheers gay marriage supporters as Supreme Court awaits

In a landmark victory for gay rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

A court-ordered stay on gay and lesbian marriages, however, remained in place while proponents of Proposition 8, the ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriages, prepare to appeal.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued withering criticism of an electorate the court said used its “initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed,” violating the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the majority, “and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

The case has long been thought destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. It may still be, though the narrow grounds on which the appeals court ruled Tuesday – focusing on California law and ignoring the broader question about whether same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry – cast doubt on the prospect. Continue Reading…