A California appeals court made a stunning proclamation on Tuesday, ruling that California's voter-backed Proposition 8 –which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman- is unconstitutional.
A three judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the proposition, but limited their ruling to California same-sex couples, rather than addressing rights for all same-sex couples in the U.S.
"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the ruling. "The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort."
The verdict upholds Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 decision, in which Walker wrote in all capitals that, "A PRIVATE MORAL VIEW THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE INFERIOR TO OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES IS NOT A PROPER BASIS FOR LEGISLATION." The case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court.
Gay marriage advocates rejoiced on Tuesday at the victory, although a stay on allowing same-sex marriages in the state remains in effect until the appeals process concludes.
"Today's 9th Circuit Court decision is not just a victory for gay and lesbian couples in California – it is a victory for all Americans who believe that the 'liberty and justice for all' in the pledge we teach our children really means ALL," read an email statement from Episcopal minister the Rev. Canon Susan Russell.
"It is also a victory over those who erroneously believe that the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment gives them freedom to write their theology on marriage - or anything else - into our Constitution," she added.
Opponents of the ruling, including the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, and some Evangelical Christians, called the ruling a "new judicial low" and an "insult," but expected as well.
"This decision was completely expected," William B. May, head of Catholics for the Common Good Action, told Catholic News Agency. "You have to remember, this is the most liberal, most-overturned appeals court and most-overturned judge in the country."
May added that it is "absurd" to say there is no public interest in "protecting the only institution in society that unites kids with their moms and dads."
Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 by 52 percent of California's voters. The measure amended the state's constitution to read that, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Meanwhile, Washington state is near to becoming the seventh state to legalize gay marriage with a vote on Wednesday expected to pass. Current states allowing gay marriage include Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.