Turning Point for Marriage Equality: Federal Appeals Court Declines to Rehear Historic Prop 8 Decision

Opponents of Equality May Now Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – In an announcement that could either lead to a return to marriage equality in California or a historic case before the U.S. Supreme Court, today the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to review a February decision of that court ruling that California’s constitutional amendment stripping loving, committed gay and lesbian couples of marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.  With today’s announcement, the proponents of Prop 8 are now likely to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit is likely to continue the stay of its decision until that process is complete.  In the event that the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, the lower court ruling would stand and gay and lesbian couples would again be able to marry in California.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese released the following statement in response on the day of this historic announcement:

“Once again, a federal court has affirmed that the cherished guarantees of our Constitution are there to protect all Americans – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  For over three years, the plaintiffs, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies have shown tremendous fortitude and perseverance in their fight for marriage equality.  With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to ensuring that gay and lesbian Californians – and, one day, our entire community nationwide – are able to join the institution of marriage and have their love and commitment respected equally.

“Today’s announcement is another significant step on a path that we all know leads to equality.  While the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately decide the outcome of this case, we must all continue to walk that path – in this case and other courtrooms, in legislatures, at ballot boxes and at kitchen table – until all LGBT people are fully and equally part of the American community.”

In response to a 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court ending marriage discrimination in the state, anti-equality forces succeeded in placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Despite over 18,000 same-sex couples having married, California voters adopted the amendment, known as Proposition 8. After the California Supreme Court determined in 2009 that the adoption of Prop 8 did not itself violate the California Constitution, two plaintiff couples — Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo – filed suit against the State of California in federal court, represented by attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies and supported by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, an organization co-founded by incoming HRC President Chad Griffin  The proponents of Prop 8 intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the amendment.

Judge Vaughn Walker, then-chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, held a historic trial in January 2010, in which the plaintiffs presented substantial testimony and evidence to show that Prop 8’s only purpose is to discriminate against same-sex couples.  In August 2010, in a historic decision, he concluded Prop 8 is unconstitutional.  That ruling was appealed to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed Walker’s conclusion that Prop 8 in unconstitutional in February 2012, but stayed its decision as the proponents sought a rehearing.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

NBC/WSJ Poll Shows Majority of Americans Would Support Same-Sex Marriage

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A poll by NBC News/ Wall Street Journal today shows that 54 percent of Americans would support a law in their state making same-sex marriage legal, while 40% oppose it. The latest survey is in line with a raft of other national polls reflecting the fast growing momentum in support of marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples.

Poll result, courtesy of HRC

In Landmark Move, NAACP Board Endorses Marriage Equality

Flurry of Recent Developments Shatters Myth of African-American Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

WASHINGTON – On the heels of President Obama’s historic support for marriage equality and subsequent polling on the issue among African-Americans, the NAACP Board of Directors endorsed marriage equality on May 19, 2012.

“We could not be more pleased with the NAACP’s history-making vote today – which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “It’s time the shameful myth that the African-American community is somehow out of lockstep with the rest of the country on marriage equality is retired – once and for all. The facts and clear momentum toward marriage speak for themselves.”

Half of African-Americans, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this month, back marriage equality. The Journal reported, “Almost every demographic slice was more in favor of gay marriage than it had been in 2009.”

Following President Obama’s historic endorsement of the issue also this month, attitudes within the African-American community become even more positive. A Washington Post poll showed that 54 percent of African Americans backed the President’s statement. A Public Policy Poll also taken after the President’s announcement reflected an 11-point increase among African Americans in North Carolina who support either marriage or civil unions for committed gay and lesbian couples.

Months ago, HRC unearthed secret internal memos by the so-called National Organization for Marriage which admitted in stark terms its racial strategy. One memo to its Board of Directors stated NOM would drive a “wedge between gays and blacks.”

“NOM has pursued ugly racial politics seeking to divide people, but what is becoming crystal clear is that its strategy is not working,” said Solmonese. “Americans from all walks of life are uniting to support love, commitment, and stronger families.”

The Human Rights Campaign is the author of this press release and is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

More Momentum in Maryland: Senate Passes Civil Marriage Equality Bill

But marriage not yet a reality; voter referendum expected

Washington, D.C. – On the heels of the historic House of Delegates vote last week, the Maryland Senate today approved marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Martin O’Malley (D) that would allow committed gay and lesbian couples to marry. With the bill successfully passing through the state legislature, Governor O’Malley is expected to sign it.

“We could not be more grateful to the senators who today voted to make all Maryland families stronger,” said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today, we took another giant step toward marriage equality becoming law – and we are in this position due to the unwavering leadership and resolve of Governor O’Malley and our legislative allies, particularly Sens. Rich Madaleno, Jamie Raskin, Rob Garagiola, and Brian Frosh.”

The Civil Marriage Protection Act allows committed gay and lesbian couples to obtain a marriage license while providing religious exemptions for churches and other religious institutions. Clergy, for example, do not have to perform any marriage they do not agree with.

Virtually any piece of legislation, according to Maryland law, can be subject to a referendum where voters cast a ballot supporting or opposing the legislation. Opponents of marriage equality are expected to begin obtaining the requisite signatures necessary to refer the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the general election ballot. Says Solmonese:

“There remains a lot of work to do between now and November to make marriage equality a reality in Maryland. Along with coalition partners, we look forward to educating and engaging voters about what this bill does: It strengthens all Maryland families and protects religious liberty.”

A January poll by the Washington Post indicated a majority of Marylanders support marriage equality.

The Human Rights Campaign committed extensive resources to the legislative effort in the Free State, including helping to create Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the broad-based coalition made up of labor, faith, civil liberties, and LGBT organizations. HRC provided the campaign’s senior staff and spearheaded the field, communications, and faith components of the coalition effort. Learn more about HRC’s engagement.

Today’s legislative win for marriage equality comes at a historic moment: in the past three weeks, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California’s discriminatory Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional; Governor Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington State; and a marriage bill passed the New Jersey legislature this month. Six states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage equality, with Washington State’s law set to go into effect in three months.

The Human Rights Campaign is the author of this press release and is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.