In March 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, an anti-gay ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in California in November 2008. Just five months before, in May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that the freedom to marry should be extended to same-sex couples across the state.
The Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown) case dates back to May 2009, when the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8. AFER filed on behalf of two same-sex couples - Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Jeff Zarrillo & Paul Katami, who filed for marriage licenses and were denied in California in 2009 because of Proposition 8. Learn more about the plaintiffs at AFER.
On August 4, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional and discriminatory, writing, "California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians." Proponents of Prop 8 appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On February 7, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed Judge Walker's ruling, stating, "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 case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court granted certiorari in December 2012.
Oral arguments for the case were heard on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. The next day, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Windsor v. United States, which challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Learn more about that case HERE.
Amicus briefs supporting the end of Proposition 8 in the Hollingsworth case have been filed by a wide variety of voices, including the Obama Administration, a coalition of 80+ Republican leaders, attorneys for AFER, state-wide LGBT organizations, and nearly 300 businesses and corporations that support marriage for same-sex couples.
It would be unwise to speculate on what the Supreme Court will decide in Hollingsworth v. Perry, or to read too far into the back-and-forth from today's oral arguments. Instead, we must await further instruction from the Court and, in the meantime, continue showing why marriage matters and sharing the moving and powerful stories of same-sex couples and their families. It's clear that several of the judges are wrestling with multiple questions and levels of understanding in the case.
The momentum we have built for marriage and the strategy that has brought us to this exciting moment is the same strategy that will bring us to victory, whether in June or going forward. It's always impossible to predict what the court will do, and in this specific case, with so many different possible directions, it's even more difficult to speculate. But the fact that we've gotten this far is a strong indicator of how far the marriage movement has come in changing people's understanding of why marriage matters, and it shows how successfully the marriage movement has proceeded. As long as we continue our efforts, we have a lot of hope going forward.
Listen to the Audio of the Supreme Court's Oral Arguments in Perry
Blog Posts Related to Proposition 8
No one knows what the Supreme Court will rule, but this week, Americans made their stance clear: We are ready for the freedom to marry.
Yesterday, Evan Wolfson spoke at the CATO Institute about Hollingsworth v. Perry and Windsor v. United States. He urged listeners to continue the work of winning the freedom to marry, even as the Supreme Court Justices deliberate on what they will do and announce by June. Read his comments here!
All week long, Freedom to Marry will be live-blogging the oral arguments in the Supreme Court cases, providing you with background information about the cases, and ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information available.