Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California High Court Upholds Proposition 8, But Validates Pre-Prop 8 Marriages

The California Supreme Court today in Strauss v. Horton, (CA Sup. Ct., May 26, 2009), rejected a challenge to voters' approval of Proposition 8, thereby upholding the California constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. In a 6-1 decision, the court held that Proposition 8 was an "amendment" and not a "revision" of the state constitution, and therefore properly approved in an initiative process. However same-sex marriages entered into before the effective date of Proposition 8 will remain valid.

The majority opinion by Chief Justice George held that: Proposition 8 merely "carves out a narrow and limited exception" to privacy, due process and equal protection provision in the state constitution, "reserving the official designation of the term 'marriage' for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws."

Justices Kennard and Werdegar each wrote a concurring opinion. Justice Kennard also joined the majority opinion while Justice Werdegar only agreed with the result, but rejected much of the majority's analysis. Justice Moreno dissented arguing that Proposition 8 is a "revision" of the Constitution because it "strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution" by requiring discrimination on the basis of a suspect classification. The Court has also issued a press release describing the opinions. The New York Times reports on the decision.