For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666;
Rebecca Farmer, ACLU of Northern California, (415) 621-2493

Federal Appeals Court Says California Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional

ACLU Hails Landmark Decision and Urges Efforts in Other States to Ensure Success on Appeal

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court today issued a historic decision upholding a lower court ruling that Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that excluded same-sex couples from marriage in the state, violates the U.S. Constitution.

The decision, unless appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, will clear the way for same-sex couples in California to marry once again. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal filed two friend-of-the-court briefs in the case supporting the argument that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

“This is a wonderful victory not only for same-sex couples, but for everyone who values fairness and dignity for all families,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons others do – to make a solemn commitment to their partners and to protect their families. It’s cruel for any state to bar them from marriage, and today’s decision confirms that it’s unconstitutional as well.”

Since the Proposition 8 case was filed in 2009, an increasing number of states have embraced protections for same-sex relationships, and a majority of the American public has come to support the freedom to marry. Currently, six states plus Washington, D.C. allow same-sex couples to marry, three other states recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, nine states have full domestic partnerships or civil unions and three more states have more limited domestic partnership registries.

“The best thing we can do to support this case is to continue working for greater protections for LGBT families in as many additional states as possible,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney for the LGBT Project at the ACLU of Northern California. “We’ll celebrate this ruling, and then put that momentum toward important battles we’re facing this year.”

The ACLU is working in coalition with other organizations to secure the freedom to marry across the country, including passing marriage bills in Maryland and Washington state, passing a voter initiative in Maine that would allow same-sex couples to marry and defeating proposed anti-marriage amendments in Minnesota and North Carolina. The ACLU is also seeking domestic partnership protections in Montana, Missouri and Alaska.


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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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