Timeline of California Same-Sex Marriage Law
Many people think about gay marriage in California as an issue spanning only the past couple of years. However, it was in 2000 that Proposition 22 defined marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman in the state of California. This was an extension of earlier laws on the books that stated essentially the same thing; Proposition 22 simply stated it more clearly and explicitly. However, other laws protecting the rights of domestic partners, especially surrounding death benefits, are enacted. Many opponents of same sex marriage then claim that such benefits should be enough to satisfy the GLBT community in their fight for equal rights.
In 2004, Mayor Newsom of San Francisco tried to make a stand for marriage equality. He required the county of San Francisco to issue four thousand marriage licenses for same-sex couples. However, the California Supreme Court ruled that the licenses were void because the mayor did not have the power to override the state law on marriage. The courts did find that the state ban might be unconstitutional, but that it could not be changed anywhere but by the state lawmakers and the state Supreme Court.
Next, in 2005, the California State Legislature attempted to pass a bill to allow same-sex marriages. The bill, AB 849, passed both the State Senate and the State Assembly, but was then vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, because of Proposition 22. The Governor then decided that the matter should be decided by the courts or a second set of votes. When the second vote took place, on AB 43, he vetoed it, again because of Proposition 22, which was still under deliberation by the California Supreme Court. Governor Schwarzenegger felt that the state legislature could not create laws that would interfere with decisions being made in the courts at the same time, and that such bills needed to wait until deliberations were complete.
In early 2008, the California Supreme Court voted to overturn Proposition 22 with a 4-3 vote, making same-sex marriages legal in the state. Later that same year, Proposition 8 was created with the intent of overriding this decision through legislation. Proposition 8, also called the California Marriage Protection Act, garnered over a million signatures in the petition stage before it was submitted to the ballot. When it was voted on, Proposition 8 squeaked into law with just fifty-two percent of the popular vote. The passage of this Marriage Protection Act resulted in same-sex marriages once again being illegal in the state of California.
The Marriage Protection Act was then deemed unconstitutional by District Court Judge Walker, in 2010. The decision stated that Proposition 8 was discriminatory, and that the California Constitution expressly forbade such discrimination. The overturning of Proposition 8 meant that same-sex marriage licenses could once again be granted in the state of California. Also, any licenses that were granted between the overturning of Proposition 22 and the passage of Proposition 8 were still valid under the new decision.
Update: Federal Appeals Court Overturns Prop 8
Proposition 8 in California, widely known as the vote to remove gay marriage from the state, was overturned Tuesday February 7 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Though they had the power to do so, the Appeals Court did not include other western states in the ruling, but limited it instead to only California.
However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not write their ruling in such a way that affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians to get married. Instead, they focused on the Constitutional rights that were created when earlier anti-gay measures were struck down by the California Supreme Court. Legal experts see this as a strength of the ruling, rather than a failing, because it reduces the possibility of the Federal Supreme Court overturning the ruling.
A key part of the ruling hinged on one of the Supreme Court's own cases. In 1996, the Federal Supreme Court overturned a law in Colorado that forbade the passage of anti-discrimination laws against gays and lesbians. By relying on the Supreme Court's own precedents, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals helped to reduce the chance that the Supreme Court will feel a need to review the case.
The ruling will not take effect for at least two weeks from Tuesday, because the backers of Proposition 8 have that long to appeal for review by a larger panel. If the Federal Supreme Court were to take on the case, it will be several months at least before it is reviewed and decided. As it was when Proposition 8 first passed, it is possible for gay and lesbian couples to gain the right to marry under the current ruling and then lose it again if the Supreme Court decides in favor of the bill.
California Marriage Laws: What the State Constitution says…
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or
recognized in California.
Source: California State Constitution