The streets of West Hollywood exploded with rainbow flags, chants and signs reading “Prop. 8. Gone. Finally!” hours after a landmark pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions changed the game for same-sex marriage in California.
In a 5-4 vote, legal challenges that sought to overturn a district judge’s ruling, which deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional, were thrown out of court. Prop. 8 was first passed in 2008 to amend the California constitution and ban gay marriage in the state.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Prop. 8’s proponents, as a private group, did not have the legal authority to defend a state law.
“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion. “Neither the California Supreme Court nor the Ninth Circuit ever described the proponents as agents of the State, and they plainly do not qualify as such.”
A section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied the federal benefits of marriage to legally married same-sex couples, was struck down as well.
The DOMA ruling will grant federal benefits to all legally married same-sex couples; however, the couples must live in one of the 12 states or the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriage.
With the Prop. 8 ruling, California will become the thirteenth state to recognize same-sex marriage, a decision that Long Beach Vice Mayor Robert Garcia said he has been waiting for.
“When Prop. 8 passed in 2008, it was a sad moment for the city,” Garcia said.
The Supreme Court’s decision vindicated the actions taken against the rallies and protests that spread throughout Long Beach following Prop. 8’s passage, he said, and prove that its addition to California’s constitution was a mistake.
“The court’s ruling is a validation that we were right then and that we’re right today,” he said. “It’s a historical day for California and the country. The court did the right thing in allowing Californians to marry.”
Following the Supreme Court’s rulings, Gov. Jerry Brown said in a press release that marriage licenses should be issued to same-sex couples soon.
“In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” he said.
Robin Tyler, the first plaintiff to sue the State of California for equal marriage rights, was celebrating in West Hollywood with the excited crowds Wednesday. She said the decision was a good start but that California is just the beginning.
“I thought it was a very narrow ruling, which is why some of the liberal judges did not support it,” She said. “They essentially punted the ball back to California, so I was thrilled for California, but justice is not about just us. There has to be a tremendous fight now to get it in other states.”
Shortly after the ruling, President Barack Obama issued a statement of approval.
“The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free,” he said.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, though, was not happy with the decision.
“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said in a press release. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
Some students on campus, like junior engineering major Ryan Antram, agreed.
“I don’t believe in gay marriage per-say,” Antram said. “It’s just the government should not be involved in it … California already voted to ban gay marriage a couple years ago. What’s the point of voting if it gets overturned?”
Others, such as senior economics major Aman Shani, said they support the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I think you should have the right to marry whoever you want to marry, and it shouldn’t affect your legal rights,” he said. “I think it’s kind of cynical to try to punish someone for their sexual orientation …You can’t control your sexual orientation.”
Managing Editor Courtney Tompkins and Photo Editor Todd Johnson contributed to this report.