A federal appeals court in San Francisco today ruled that Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

#Prop8 march through UN Plaza to City Hall #occupysf

Related: Crowd Celebrates Prop 8 Decision Outside SF Courthouse, Ignores Single Counter-Protester
Same Sex Marriage Opponents Vow To Appeal Decision Against Proposition 8

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today ruled that Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

The 2-1 ruling was issued this morning by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco by two same-sex couples in 2009. You can read the entire, 128 page filing here.

The court said, in part, that “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had 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.”

Haighteration‘s Andrew Dudley notes that the decision also reads, “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.”

Proposition 8 was approved by 52% of California voters in 2008. However, as Bloomberg notes, today’s decision read that “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.”

According to the AP, the ruling states that “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.”

Its sponsors appealed to the 9th Circuit after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in 2010 that the measure was unconstitutional.

The court also ruled against arguments made that Walker should have recused himself from the case, as he is gay and in a long-term relationship.

Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, said in a statement that “today’s powerful court ruling striking down the infamous Prop 8 affirms basic American values and helps tear down a discriminatory barrier to marriage that benefits no one while making it harder for people to take care of their loved ones. The Ninth Circuit rightly held that a state simply may not take a group of people and shove them outside the law, least of all when it comes to something as important as the commitment and security of marriage.”

Masen Davis, Executive Director of San Francisco’s Transgender Law Center said “we’re thrilled that today the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that under our constitution, all loving couples must be allowed to marry, regardless of the gender of either partner.”

In a statement, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom said that “today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. This is the biggest step that theAmerican judicial system has taken to end the grievous discrimination against men and women in same-sex relationships and should be highly praised.”

Senator Mark Leno issued a statement that read, in part, that “In today’s triumph, I hope our community finds renewed spirit and momentum to continue the important work of helping to ensure that all people receive the respect, dignity and validation they deserve.”

SF Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement that “I celebrate the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court today. This is a great day for marriage equality and a great day for California families.”

“San Francisco stands ready to begin marrying same sex couples,” he said.

DA George Gascon said in a statement that the court “ruled on the right side of history…I will continue to fight along side the LGBT community until civil rights and equality for all is achieved.”

Governor Brown said “The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”

Those who gathered at the Courthouse steps this morning marched to the steps of San Francisco City Hall for a brief rally after the decision.

At 5:00 PM, a community rally will be held at Castro and Market, Marriage Equality USA says.

Today’s decision can be appealed further to an expanded 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit and to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the supporters of Prop 8 have 15 days to ask the Ninth Circuit panel to reconsider its decision or to ask for reconsideration by a larger panel of judges on that court.

Alternatively, they have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court of the United States review the case. According to the LA Times, “the high court is expected to be divided on the issue, and many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote.”

According to the WSJ, “should the Supreme Court agree to hear the appeal, a ruling is unlikely before spring 2013, unless the justices take extraordinary steps to expedite the case.”

Said Newsom “our journey is not over until the highest court in the United States reaches the same decision that the Court of Appeals did today. It is on that day that the struggle for equality will be over and the dream on which this great nation was founded will become a reality.”

Additional coverage: Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, court rules [Reuters via Ex]
Federal Appeals Court Rules Prop. 8 Ban On Gay Marriage Unconstitutional [CBS5]
Ninth Circuit Court Rules Prop. 8 Unconstitutional [SFist]
A U.S. appeals court rules Prop. 8 unconstitutional [Chron]
Appeals Court Strikes Down Prop. 8 [BC]
Fictitious Marilyn Monroe Film Used To Shoot Down Prop. 8 [SFist]
Quotes from the Proposition 8 Ruling [KRON]
Appeals court rules Proposition 8 unconstitutional [Golden Gate X-Press]
San Francisco celebrates same-sex marriage ruling [SFBG]
Timeline of gay marriage in California [Chron]
Prop. 8 Appeals Court Ruling: Inside the Dissenting Opinion [Weekly]
Excerpts from today’s Prop. 8 ruling [Chron]
Editorial: Wise ruling against Prop. 8 [Chron]

Photo of the Prop 8 march through UN Plaza to City Hall: Steve Rhodes

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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