"[T]o the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional." The opinion is here. The vote is 4-3, which Chief Justice George joined by Justices Kennard, Werdegar, and Moreno in the majority, and Justices Baxter, Chin, and Corrigan dissenting on the key issue. (Justice Corrigan's dissent seems to suggest that some form of domestic partnership is constitutionally mandated, but that there's no constitutional requirement that it be labeled "marriage"; but the dissent doesn't seem to be entirely clear on this, perhaps precisely because domestic partnership is provided and the issue of whether it's mandated is thus not squarely on the table.)
The opinion is entirely based on claims under the California Constitution, and does not rely on federal constitutional claims. This seems that the U.S. Supreme Court cannot review this; and it also means that a state constitutional amendment -- which seems likely to be on the ballot this November -- could overturn the decision.
Here's the court's reasoning, in a nutshell:
1. The California Constitution's Due Process Clause and Privacy Clause (there's an explicit one in California) secure a right to marry, which extends to same-sex marriages as well as opposite-sex marriages. The limit of marriage to opposite-sex couples thus must be reviewed under strict scrutiny (i.e., must be narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest).
2. The California Constitution's Equal Protection Clause treats sexual orientation as a suspect classification. Any discrimination against gays and lesbians thus must be reviewed under strict scrutiny, and the opposite-sex-only rule is indeed such a discrimination.
3. The opposite-sex-marriage-only rule does not constitute presumptively impermissible sex discrimination, only sexual orientation discrimination.
4. The ban on same-sex marriage can't pass muster under strict scrutiny (pretty much a foregone conclusion, given how demanding strict scrutiny generally is).
More commentary soon, I hope.
Related Posts (on one page):
- The Countermajoritarian Difficulty as to State Constitutions vs. the Federal Constitution:
- The California Legislature's Enactment of Same-Sex Marriage:
- "Did the California Supreme Court Just Do John McCain an Inadvertent Favor?"
- Congratulations to California Same-Sex Married Couples:
- The Slippery Slope to Same-Sex Marriage:
- California Supreme Court Holds That California Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriage: