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Excerpts from ruling on Calif’s gay marriage ban

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The following are excerpts from the ruling Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declaring California’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional:

_ “Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted. Because under California statutory law, same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, all parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the state, or any other authorized party, an important right _ the right to obtain and use the designation of `marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less.”

_ “Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in childrearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples. Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard these liberties.”

_ “All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of `marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships. 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. The Constitution simply does not allow for `laws of this sort.'”

_ “By emphasizing Proposition 8’s limited effect, we do not mean to minimize the harm that this change in the law caused to same-sex couples and their families. To the contrary, we emphasize the extraordinary significance of the official designation of `marriage.’ That designation is important because `marriage’ is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of `registered domestic partnership’ does not.”

_ “Had Marilyn Monroe’s film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie, even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different. The name `marriage’ signifies the unique recognition that society gives to harmonious, loyal, enduring, and intimate relationships.”

_ “It is implausible to think that denying two men or two women the right to call themselves married could somehow bolster the stability of families headed by one man and one woman.”

_ “We must infer from Proposition 8’s effect on California law that the people took away from gays and lesbians the right to use the official designation of `marriage’ _ and the societal status that accompanies it _ because they disapproved of these individuals as a class and did not wish them to receive the same official recognition and societal approval of their committed relationships that the state makes available to opposite-sex couples … Proposition 8 therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause.”

_ “We therefore conclude that, through the proponents of ballot measures, the people of California must be allowed to defend in federal courts, including on appeal, the validity of their use of the initiative power. Here, however, their defense fails on the merits. The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.”

_ “We also affirm _ for substantially the reasons set forth in the district court’s opinion _ the denial of the motion by the official sponsors of Proposition 8 to vacate the judgment entered by former Chief Judge Walker, on the basis of his purported interest in being allowed to marry his same-sex partner.”

_ “We do not doubt the importance of the more general questions presented to us concerning the rights of same-sex couples to marry, nor do we doubt that these questions will likely be resolved in other states, and for the nation as a whole, by other courts. For now, it suffices to conclude that the people of California may not, consistent with the federal Constitution, add to their state constitution a provision that has no more practical effect than to strip gays and lesbians of their right to use the official designation that the state and society give to committed relationships.”

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