U.S. Ninth Circuit Hears Prop 8 Oral Arguments; Lambda Legal Pleased at Line of Questioning

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"The only people directly affected are lesbian and gay couples who wish to marry in California"


Jennifer C. Pizer

"The right to vote should never include the power to eliminate the rights of one's neighbor."

(Los Angeles, December 6, 2010) — In response to today's oral arguments in the appeal of a federal case striking down California's Proposition 8, Lambda Legal National Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer issued the following statement:

"Today's argument focused on how the court should apply two key principles of federal law: First, the federal courts have only limited authority and can only decide a question when it has been presented by someone who is directly injured, not someone who just feels strongly about the answer. Second, the federal Constitution limits what kinds of laws the voters in a state can pass.

The question whether same-sex couples have a right to marry in all states received less attention than why, in California, they should be denied the stature and inclusion provided by the word "marriage” when this state provides them and their families all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage through domestic partnership. All three judges seemed dissatisfied with the explanations offered by Mr. Cooper on behalf of Prop 8's proponents.

On the issue of whether the proponents have legal standing to make this appeal, the judges appeared focused on the reality that sometimes litigation cannot continue even if many wish it could, and that perhaps there cannot be a full testing of the lower court ruling in this case because those who want to continue are simply not directly affected by Prop 8. The only people directly affected are lesbian and gay couples who wish to marry in California, and their families, who are harmed directly and personally every day they are denied this basic right enjoyed by all others in the state.

Judge Hawkins put a spotlight on this equality problem early in the argument when he asked whether California voters could by initiative re-segregate public schools based on race. The power of the people to amend their state constitution always is limited by the federal guarantee that all of us are to have the same rights and freedoms. The right to vote should never include the power to eliminate the rights of one's neighbor; rather, 'equal protection' means each of us is bound to treat our neighbors as we would be treated ourselves, at least when voting on the scope of legal rights."

For more information, please go to http://www.lambdalegal.org/protecting-same-sex-relationships.



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Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.