Perry v. Brown

671 F.3d 1025 (2012)

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Perry v. Brown

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
671 F.3d 1025 (2012)

Facts

California’s approach to marriage rights had shifted over the years. In 1977, the family code was amended to define marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman. In 2000, in response to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, California Proposition 22 limited state recognition of marriage to heterosexual marriages. In 2003, the Domestic Partner Act granted the same rights to registered domestic partnerships as the state already granted to heterosexual marriages. In 2004, same-sex couples filed suit in California courts, alleging that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was unconstitutional. They won, the limiting language was stricken from the statutes, and thousands of same-sex couples married. In November 2008, voters approved a constitutional amendment, Proposition 8, that again limited state recognition of marriage to heterosexual marriages. County clerks subsequently denied marriage licenses to two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo (the couples) (plaintiffs). The couples filed suit in May 2009, arguing that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because it (1) violated the Due Process Clause by depriving same-sex couples the fundamental right of marriage, (2) violated the Equal Protection Clause by excluding same-sex couples from state-recognized marriage while granting that recognition to opposite-sex couples, and (3) violated the Equal Protection Clause by taking the right to marry away from a minority group, homosexual people, without any legitimate reason. The trial court agreed with the first two arguments. Government officials who were defendants in the matter declined to appeal, and therefore, under California law, sponsors of Proposition 8 (proponents) (defendants) were permitted to defend its constitutionality, and they appealed. The proponents argued that Proposition 8 promoted the state’s interest in responsible procreation and that the right to marriage recognition was gratuitously given to homosexuals because homosexual couples do not accidentally become pregnant, and therefore the state did not need to incentivize them to practice responsible childbearing.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reinhardt, J.)

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