“Because of our efforts together, California joins 12 other states and our nation’s capital in recognizing the fundamental right of gay and lesbian couples to marry,” leaders of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the case, said in a statement.
“As the nation’s most populous state, California substantially increases the number of Americans — approximately 94 million people, or 30 percent of the United States population — who live in a state with marriage equality.”
In a bit of an unexpected line-up, the five justices in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
Dissenting justices were Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.
Gay couples gained marriage rights in California in 2008 thanks to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. But in November 2008, the state’s voters approved Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to only recognize marriage between and a woman.
A district court judge ruled the measure violated federal guarantees of Due Process and Equal Protection.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling on the narrower grounds that California, having granted same-sex couples all of the legal rights of marriage, could not provide a legitimate reason for revoking an existing right.
The case was brought by two gay couples represented by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Prop 8 was defended by supporters of the measure after the California governor and attorney general refused to argue in favor of it.
In a broader ruling today, the Supreme Court also held 5-4 that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional.
Atlanta LGBT organizations will host a rally at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue today starting at 5 p.m. The corner is in the heart of Midtown, Atlanta’s gay mecca, and has played host to similar rallies in the past.
The pair of rulings today do not give same-sex couples the right to marry in Georgia, but still represent significant gains for gay rights.
“While we had hoped for a more expansive ruling that would immediately affect the legal status of couples here in Georgia, this is an important step towards the full legal recognition of our relationship,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “We can celebrate for our colleagues and loved ones in California and the twelve other states affected by this ruling today. Tomorrow we begin the process of building a movement to recognize our own marriages here in Georgia.”
Organizations participating in the rally include the Atlanta Pride Committee, Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Congregation Bet Haverim, Georgia Equality, Black LGBT Coalition, Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Lambda Legal, HRC Atlanta, Love Under Fire, Saint Mark United Methodist Church, Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT) and organizers behind the annual Bayard Rustin / Audre Lorde Social Justice Breakfast.
In Athens, LGBT rights supporters will gather at 6 p.m. at Our Hope Metropolitan Community Church, 980 S. Lumpkin St., Athens, GA 30605.
The Savannah LGBT community will gather at 5 p.m. at Wright Square, in front of the Federal Courthouse.
Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal will also host a discussion July 2 on how the rulings impact Georgia; the time has not been announced, but you can participate online or in person in Atlanta.
Top photo: The United States Supreme Court (Official photo/Architect of the Capitol)