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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Celebrates Marriage Equality, Asks Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Lift Stay

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Contact: (415) 703-5837

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today declared that the United States Supreme Court’s historic opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry means that every county in the State of California must now recognize the right of same sex couples to legally marry and asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its stay and allow same-sex marriages to take place.

“The Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry means that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to be legally married in all of California’s 58 counties,” said Attorney General Harris. “The Court agreed with our argument that opponents of same-sex marriage lacked the legal standing required to bring the issue to the court. Same-sex marriages can legally resume in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay on the District Court Ruling. I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift this stay immediately, because gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough for their full civil rights.”

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion, found that proponents of Proposition 8 lacked the legal standing necessary to challenge the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. The Supreme Court decision lets stand a District Court ruling that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Today’s historic Supreme Court opinion echoed legal arguments Attorney General Harris made in an amicus brief submitted to the Court on February 27.

“Because we find that petitioners do not have standing, we have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit,” reads the Supreme Court opinion.  “We have 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.”

Attorney General Harris filed a brief with the Supreme Court in February that argued opponents of same-sex marriage had no legal standing to interfere with the rights of others. (https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-files-us-supreme-court-brief-support-marriage)

“Unlike state officials, proponents have no authority to enforce Proposition 8, and suffered no injury-in-fact from the district court’s judgment enjoining its enforcement,” the amicus brief states. As a result, the Proposition 8 sponsors “can only assert the kind of undifferentiated interest in the validity of state law that this Court has held to be insufficient for [legal] standing.”

Attorney General Harris also argued that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional:  “To be clear, Proposition 8’s sole purpose was to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. There is absolutely no legitimate or rational state interest in doing so. Proposition 8 is therefore unconstitutional.”

In May 2011, Attorney General Harris filed a similar amicus brief in California Supreme Court.

Attorney General Harris also praised the Supreme Court’s ruling that found the 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutional. Specifically, the court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor found that Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional because it discriminated against a specific class of people, gays and lesbians.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages.  It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State,” reads the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor. 

In February, Attorney General Harris joined 14 other attorneys general in filing a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down DOMA as unconstitutional.

“I joined 14 other Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA because it is unconstitutional,” said Attorney General Harris. “It is gratifying to see the highest court in the land deliver an across-the-board victory for equality and justice today. Edith Windsor deserved to have her marriage recognized by the United States, and today’s decision is a historic step forward in the fight for civil rights for same-sex couples across this country.”

A copy of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry can be found here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-144_8ok0.pdf

In a letter to Governor Brown, Attorney General Harris advised that the State Department of Public Health instruct county clerks and recorders in all 58 counties to resume issuing marriage licenses to and recording the marriages of same-sex couples.  Same-sex marriages will resume as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay on the District Court ruling.

A copy of the letter sent to Governor Brown is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov.

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