"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely
nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.
"The extension of the Common Benefits Clause to acknowledge
plaintiffs as Vermonters who seek nothing more, nor less, than legal
protection and security for their avowed commitment to an intimate and
lasting human relationship is simply, when all is said and done, a
recognition of our common humanity." Chief Justice Jeffrey L. Amestoy, of the Vermont Supreme Court in a decision that led to the legalization of civil unions in Vermont.
"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry.
Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How
should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs
or as humans?" Posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission
of the author.
"... They went running down the hall of their preschool singing 'Mommy and
Mama are getting married.' And they looked at me with such happy eyes." Comment
by Beth Hillman, a professor at the University of California Hastings
College of the Law in San Francisco, CA after she told her two daughters at
school about the California Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
"As California goes, so goes the nation." Ancient adage of
Four comments on Proposition 8 -- the plebiscite that ended the right of same-sex couples to
marry on 2008-NOV-06:
"This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is
Armageddon," Chuck Colson, Watergate felon and founder of Prison Fellowship
"I call upon Californians who supported Proposition 8 to make an
honest and dedicated effort to learn more about the lives and experiences of
lesbian and gay humanity whose constitutional rights are unfairly targeted
by this measure'." Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of
"It's more important than the presidential
election. We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of
marriage." Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
"It's bittersweet right now because we just watched the first
African-American president elected. We were watching it with our
African-America son, there were tears coming out of our eyes, and [then] we went to
look at what's happening at [Proposition] 8. We're speechless right now." Jose Ronni Pahl, one of the first same-sex
spouses to be married in Santa Clara County, CA during the spring of 2008.
"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California ... The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort." Ruling by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2012-FEB.
This ruling is not inclusive. Prop. 8 also lessened the status and dignity of bisexuals in California. What is most often referred to as "gay marriage" today does not necessarily involve two lesbians or two gays. Many consist of two bisexuals, or one bisexual and a person of the same sex with a homosexual orientation. That is why this web site often refers to "same-sex marriage" -- a more inclusive term -- rather than "gay marriage."
Summary of activity, 2008 to 2013:
Same-sex marriages (SSMs) became available in California from 2008-MAY until election day in 2008-NOV. On the latter date, Proposition 8 was narrowly passed by a public vote. It prohibited future SSMs in California. However, those SSMs solemnized between MAY and election day of 2008 remained valid.
This event is one more warning for same-sex couples everywhere who want to get married. If marriage equality is achieved in your state, you might want to get married with all possible speed. In some political jurisdictions, there is absolutely no guarantee that this right will still be available next year, next month, or even on the next day.
The constitutionality of Prop. 8 was challenged in the federal court system. Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is clearly unconstitutional on a number of grounds. The proponents of Prop. 8 appealed Judge Walker's ruling in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The first day of hearings was Monday, 2010-DEC-06. An attempt to vacate Judge Walker's ruling because he is gay was rejected.
The California Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the official proponents of Prop. 8 -- ProtectMarriage.com -- have the legal standing to attempt to defend it. The court decided that they did. This was a critical decision because the Governor and Attorney General of California, who clearly have legal standing, had refused to defend Prop. 8's because, to them, it was so obviously unconstitutional.
David Boies is co-counsel in the federal case that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8. During 2011-OCT, he predicted that his case and one of the 12 or so lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of DOMA would probably arrive at the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration during its 2012-OCT term. He said: "I think that’s probably when both cases get there and I suspect they’ll consolidate them for argument." 1 The DOMA law had overturned more than two centuries of tradition by stating that the federal government would not recognize marriages legally solemnized in states and registered there if the spouses were of the same gender. Thus same-sex married couples were cut off from about 1,138 benefits, grants and protections for themselves and their children.
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered their rulings on both the Prop. 8 and DOMA cases on 2013-JUN-26. They found that ProtectMarriage, the group that had appealed the Prop. 8 case to the Court, was without standing, and thus the lower court rulings remained valid. Prop. 8 was dead. They also found that a key section of DOMA -- the one that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages solemnized and registered in individual states -- to be unconstitutional.
Eventually, on 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriages across the entire country. The only exception was the territory of American Samoa, where most inhabitants are considered U.S. residents, not U.S. citizens. Thus, the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court do not necessarily apply there.
Late 2011 to 2013-JUN: Major developments:
2011-DEC: Both sides argued their case before the a panel of three judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
2012-FEB: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Proposition 8 -- the citizen initiative that terminated SSM in California -- to be unconstitutional.
2012-MAR: Proponents of Prop. 8 asked that the panel's decision be reviewed by a larger panel of the 9th Circuit Appeals Court.
2012-JUN: Appeals Court rejects request for review, thus letting the panel's decision stand.
2012-AUG-01: The proponents appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
2012-DEC-07: The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) accepted the appeal.
2013-FEB-28: A poll showed 61% of California voters then supported SSM; 32% are opposed. This is a major increase in support when compared to public opinion when Prop. 8 was voted on.
2013-MAR-13: A poll found that:
67% of adults in California favored the restoration of SSMs
30% are opposed,
3% didn't know or refused to answer.
52% want the Supreme Court to declare Prop. 8 unconstitutional
32% are in favor of upholding Prop. 8's constitutionality
17% didn't know or refused to answer. 9
2013-MAR-26: The court heard oral arguments.
2013-JUN-26: The court issued its decision. 2 As this web site predicted months ago, the vote was 5 to 4. That prediction took no real insight on our part because essentially all decisions of the Supreme Court involving sexual, moral, and ethical topics end up in such a split decision because of the divided nature of the court. In the end, the Court decided that the defendants had no standing, and thus the case had not been properly appealed to the Court. The ruling by the District Court that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional still stands.
2013-JUN-28: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals cancelled its injunction, and same-sex marriages once more started in California.
2013-JUN-30: Protect Marriage issued an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking that the court instruct the Court of Appeals to reinstate their injunction and stop same-sex marriages for a few weeks. Earlier, the Court of Appeals had indicated that it would wait for 25 days. That appeal was immediately denied.
2013-JUL-12: Protect Marriage issued an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court of California. They claimed that the District Courts ruling did not apply state-wide, but only appliled to the four plaintiffs or to two counties. They claimed that thus state-wide, same-sex marriages should be stopped.
2013-AUG-14: The California Supreme Court rejected Protect Marriage's appeal. This ended the last remaining legal challenge to same-sex marriage in the state. Same-sex marriages in California could subsequently proceed without impediment.
With the addition of California, a total of 13 states and the District of Columbia had then achieved marriage equality. Close to 30% of the U.S. population then resided in a political jurisdiction where all loving, committed couples -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- could marry.
2014-FEB-11: This is the ten anniversary of the date in 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the City and County to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The resulting lawsuit worked its way up to the California Supreme Court which, in 2008-MAY, ordered the state to practice marriage equality. During the following six months, more than 26,000 gays, lesbians and bisexuals married a person of the same sex. This was terminated when Proposition 8 was narrowly passed in a referendum. The National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a press release, commenting:
"While Prop 8 stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California, it also instantly created a groundswell of support for LGBT people and for the freedom to marry, galvanizing both LGBT people and allies across the country to become passionately engaged in the effort to win full dignity and security for our families." 4
Marriage equality returned to California in 2013-JUN by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry. Same-sex marriages are now routine in California, 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and 17 countries around the world. Almost 40% of Americans could enter into same-sex marriages within their states. This became 100% in the District of Columbia, all 50 states and 5 out of 6 territories in mid-2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages in the case case Obergefell v. Hodges.