Here is the full court decision upholding the original decision that ruled California's Proposition 8, (the ban of same sex marriage) to be unconstitutional
Ninth Circuit Prop. 8 decision
So what does this mean exactly? Is same sex marriage now legal (again...) in California? Well, no. Or more accurately , not yet. There is still a Stay of the ruling in place pending an appeal by the proponents of Prop 8. That means same sex marriages cannot yet resume in California. This decision also, only applies to Proposition 8 in California, and has no effect on laws in any other state or on any federal laws (i.e. the Defense of Marriage Act).
So yes, today's court ruling is good news. But nothing has actually changed yet as a result of it.
There is a lot to take in when you read the actual text of the 2-1 court ruling but here is a passage that stands out:
"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."
Why is that relevant? The opponents of Marriage Equality claimed that the original 2009 ruling by Judge Vaughn R. Walker was invalid because Walker was Gay. It is interesting to note the plaintiffs in this case made no such similar accusations against Smith, even though The Mormon Church was the single largest backer of Proposition 8.
So what happens next? That's a good question. The proponents of Prop 8 will undoubtedly appeal, so they could go one of two ways. They could make a motion for rehearing in front of the broader Ninth Circuit (11 judges). If a majority of the circuit judges agree to rehear the case, the case would stay at this appellate level and go through same process all over again in front of a larger panel. Or the Proponents could skip that step and decide to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the meantime we can all enjoy the reaction on the WingNut Bigoted Right as the American Taliban has pretty much lost their minds over today's ruling. Shrieking hysterically about "Activist Judges". Everyone's favorite white supremacist nutcase, Tony Perkins. Head of the ridiculously mis-named hate group the "Family Research Council" pretty much soiled his adult diaper riding the Waaaa-mbulance with rage after today's decision.
"This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. However, we remain confident that in the end, the Supreme Court will reject the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage,' and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.
Yeah, because we have always allowed people to vote on the civil rights of other Americans.... right?
If the United States Supreme Court were to uphold the original Walker ruling, then like in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, suddenly ALL bans on same sex marriage across the United States would be unconstitutional. This would also overturn the Defence of Marriage Act. (DOMA). The federal law banning recognition of same sex marriages.
That my friends, is the endgame. So while today's ruling is nice, it is still only one more step on a very long road. Albeit, a step in the right direction.