This case involved the constitutionality of Proposition 8 (otherwise known as the “California Marriage Protection Act”), a referendum that amended the California Constitution to provide that legal marriages could only be between a man and a woman. After a federal trial, the district court ruled that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. The same-sex marriage opponents who had proposed Proposition 8 appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
In October 2010, Americans United (joined by the Howard University civil-rights clinic) filed an amicus brief in support of the district court’s ruling. Our brief observed that just as with interracial marriage, opponents of gay marriage point to perceived threats to social order and the institutions of marriage and family, rely on pseudoscientific and religious notions that same-sex unions are unnatural, and assert that same-sex parenting will result in physical and psychological harm to children. We explained that just as these arguments proved baseless in the context of interracial marriage, they have no merit in the context of same-sex marriage.
In February 2012, the Ninth Circuit upheld the trial court and concluded that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional on the ground that it “singles out same-sex couples for unequal treatment by taking away from them alone the right to marry.” The Proposition 8 proponents petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review, and in December 2012, the Court agreed to hear the case.
On February 28, 2013, we joined an amicus brief in support of the respondents. The brief argued that marriage laws in the United States should not be based on religious doctrines.
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court held that the Proposition 8 proponents lacked standing to pursue an appeal, and the Court thus allowed the district-court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 to stand. In the 5–4 majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts stated that the Court had “never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.”