U.S. Supreme Court vacates Ninth Circuit ruling on Prop. 8, gay marriage in California legal

Updated: 9:55 a.m.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in a 5-4 vote to vacate a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, effectively overturning Proposition 8 and allowing same-sex marriages in California once again.

The court ruled that the defendants of Prop. 8 had no legal standing to appeal a 2010 decision by U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker to overturn Prop. 8. In the court’s opinion, read by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Ninth Circuit judges and the Supreme Court Justices had no authority to make a decision based on the merits of the appeal.

“For there to be such a case or controversy, it is not enough that the party invoking the power of the court have a keen interest in the issue. That party must also have “standing,” Which requires, among other things, that  it have suffered a concrete and particularized injury,” Chief Justice Roberts said. “Because we find that petitioners do not have standing, we have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and
neither did the Ninth Circuit.”

With this ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with instructions to dismiss the appeal.

California Prop. 8, banning same-sex marriage in the state, was passed by voters in 2008 with a 52.3% simple majority according to the Office of the California Secretary of State. In Orange County, almost 660,000 voters voted yes on the ban. With the passing of the proposition, Article I, Section  7.5 was added to the California Constitution, reading, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Prop. 8 was overturned in August 2010 by Judge Walker, but before his ruling could go into effect, an injunction was filed through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed pending an appeal. In February 2012, a judicial panel upheld Walker’s ruling in a 2-1 majority opinion. In the opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote,

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

After an attempt by Prop. 8 proponents to have the ruling reviewed by the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was rejected, a petition for certiorari was filed to the U.S. Supreme Court to have the entire case reviewed. The Supreme Court granted the petition in December 2012, and earlier this year in March, oral arguments were heard by the court.

Supreme Court Opinion on Hollingsworth v Perry (Prop. 8 Case)