California's ban on gay marriage has been deemed unconstitutional by a U.S. appeals court. The 2-1 decision undoes the 2008 ban put in place by California voters and has reinvigorated ongoing efforts for marriage equality across the nation, including in Illinois.
"I think the is a huge ruling that reaffirms the equal protection argument for marriage equality — that Americans in same-sex relationships should be afforded the same rights as couples in straight relationships," said Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris (D-13) in a statement after the decision was announced. "We watched Washington, New York and, Illinois, this is just one more step that shows the momentum is in our direction. For all of us who believe in equal treatment under law this just shows that we have to keep fighting."
Supporters of California's ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, are expected to appeal today's decision, taking it to a larger 9th Circuit court panel or the U.S. Supreme Court. Even still, advocates for marriage equality say that will not discourage them from using today's victory to push for full rights — not just civil unions — in Illinois. From Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer at Equality Illinois:
The inexorable march to full marriage equality achieved a significant milestone with the historic ruling that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. The court’s gratifying decision makes a clear statement that marriage equality is a fundamental freedom. This victory, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, will restore full marriage equality in California, the nation’s largest state, and add to the pressure in Illinois and elsewhere in the country to end marriage discrimination. In addition to the dignity and respect marriage equality grants loving and committed couples, it ensures security and critical safety net protections for all married couples and their families.
While we support the implementation of civil unions in Illinois in 2011, it still falls short of achieving full marriage equality on the state level and does little to guarantee the federal rights and privileges that marriage provides opposite-sex couples. With this ruling, political leaders who support full equality will have important arguments to share with state legislators who will inevitably be asked to vote on full marriage rights in the future.
Lawmakers need not wait for the ultimate disposition of the California case and other legal rulings to do the right thing in Springfield and Washington, D.C. to end marriage discrimination.