Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentLaw & Ethics · 10 years ago

Does California's unique status regarding the legality of same sex marriage help the plaintiffs at all?

California's status on the legality of same sex marriage is unique,

in the sense that gay married used to be legal.

It was declared a fundamental right under the state constitution.

and then that right was taken away through a constitutional amendment.

and as it stands now, 18,000 same sex couples are legally married in CA.

So here's my question:

Does this help the plaintiffs at all?

Were they better off filing this lawsuit in California................

then in states like Colorado and Oregon?

In Colorado, same sex marriage has never been legal.

Do you think the fact that same sex marriage used to be legal in CA is going to make any difference?

Judge Walker ruled in their favor...................

but his ruling appeared to be very broad.

not specific to the circumstances of California.

Realistically, could you see the Supreme Court giving the plaintiffs a favorable but narrow ruling that only applies to California?

or is this an all-or-nothing deal?

7 Answers

  • Phil
    Lv 7
    10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Judge Walker was ruling under Federal Law, and found that denying marriage was a violation of a Federal fundamental Right (the Supreme Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right in other cases not related to this). His ruling may have marginally been helped by California having previously allowed same sex marriage as it helped to support the proposition that the State has no interest in prohibiting and the defendants could not demonstrate any lawful state interest to restrict it, especially since it has 18,000 gay marriages already.

    The other way in which this is pure California is in the motivation of the people to restrict marriage. That was a major point of the plaintiffs to demonstrate that it was prejudice that motivated the amendment. I don't think that is too relevant on appeal though as that was only an 'AFFIRMATIVE' reason for the amendment, but there is simply no other is the real point.

    However I don't see much room for a narrow ruling. His decision was clear that marriage is a fundamental right and that there is NO legitimate reason to restrict it to mixed couples. That would apply to every state if upheld. It is hard to see how you restrict the impact to one state.

    I think the case will fail for lack of standing in the appeals court. The "defendant intervenors" cannot demonstrate any harm to themselves and if they cannot they cannot appeal. This would mean the ruling applies only to California. That would be appealed to the SC, but I think they might just let it sit that way, since the appellants really don't have standing.

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  • 10 years ago

    Lois --

    It's a very complicated question, and one further complicated by the fact that the standing question may lead to no higher court review at all. The answer is, naturally, maybe!

    It would be entirely possible for either the Ninth Circuit or the US Supreme Court to issue a narrow ruling that says that the reason that Prop 8 is unconstitutional is because it allowed voters to strip a judicially-recognized fundamental right (to same-sex marriage) from Californians. There is some federal constitutional precedent for this argument: the situation is not all that different from the 1996 case of Romer v. Evans, where the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional for the voters of the state of Colorado to strip LGBT folks of protections under housing anti-discrimination laws. (You can read about Romer here:

    Indeed, this type of argument was made by anti-Prop 8 forces in the California case of Strauss v. Horton (which you can read about here: The CA Supreme court disagreed, however.

    Judge Walker did not take this route. Instead, he broadly ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional for no reason that's particular to California. The evidence he cited and based his ruling on is not particularly specific to California. (Some of his reasoning would not apply to those states that do not have domestic partnership laws, however.)

    What it comes down to is this:

    It's possible for the 9th Circuit or Supreme Court to write a ruling that says that Prop 8 is unconstitutional because it put the judicially recognized rights of a minority up for a popular vote. No other state in the country has faced this particular situation, because all the other states that legalized gay marriage through court rulings have constitutions that are very difficult to amend, unlike CA. If they write a ruling like this, it's not going to apply very widely outside of California, and it certainly wouldn't legalize gay marriage throughout the country.

    It's also possible to write a ruling very similar to Judge Walker's. Judge Walker's ruling, or a higher court ruling like it, would not be particularly limited to California and would be easy to use to challenge marriage laws in other states.

    The question is, then, do the Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit want to release an opinion that's applicable to the entire country? Or just to California?

    Originally, my money was on the latter. But now, I'm not so sure.

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  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    I don't think the unique status affects the final decision. It could have affected the decision on whether or not to stay the lower court decision pending an appeal (because the plaintiffs could have argued that since legal gay marriage for a few months in 2008 didn't cause any problems, they should be allowed again while the case goes through) but apparently it didn't.

    The supreme court could not make a ruling that applies only to California. If they strike down prop 8, gay marriage will be legal nationwide. If they uphold prop 8, then there will be no effect on any other state.

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  • 10 years ago

    Yes. That's why I want the State of California to appeal the case if the Prop 8 proponents turn out to lack standing. Some case will make it to the Supreme Court. Like Brown v. Board of Ed, when you are dealing with civil rights cases, the facts are very important. There is a reason this case has attracted the top lawyers working on the issue and the majority of the press, rather than cases on similar constitutional amendments in other States. This is the case that has the best chance in the Country of making gay marriage legal nationwide.

    With cases in other States, there is an out of ruling on a standing issue. In California, it is clear that a right previously available to people was removed. There is not standing cop out.

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  • 10 years ago

    If marriage for gay people was legal previously it would be better to try the case there, because it would become a case of rights which were taken away, and the court is more apt to rule Prop 8 unconstitutional, then in a state that never permitted gay marriage. This is only my speculation however, because law is not an exact since and is influenced too much by politics and religion

    Hope this helps

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  • 4 years ago

    Your question definitely makes one think. However I think that yes Biblically it should be illegal. You mention that many other things are condemned in the Bible and are legal. I cannot disagree. However the question for me is not whether homosexual marriage should be legal. But should those other things. We are imperfect and we can never be sinless. However that does not mean we should not strive to be. Should sex before marriage be illegal? I don't know about putting people in jail but it is definitely wrong. Should Christians divorce? No unless the Biblical standards are met. Should sexual fantasy be illegal? There is no way to regulate thought. However should pornography be illegal? Yes. There are some things we cannot prevent. However if the world at large lived by the Biblical morals this world would be a much better place. Once again you made me consider it but I have to disagree with you on this one.

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  • Andy
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    I was arguing this yesterday. I think gay marriage advocates would have not better in a state that had never had any such ruling. In California, not only are you against public opinion but you're against legal precedence.

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