WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California’s gay marriage ban — Proposition 8 — did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.
“Discrimination has lost, bigotry has lost and love has won. That’s the way it should be,” said Shelly Bailes, a Davis resident who, along with her wife Ellen Pontac, has been at the forefront of the fight for gay rights locally and nationally for years. “Prop. 8 is in the dustbin of history where it belongs and we are overjoyed.”
“I’m overjoyed, I’m absolutely giddy, I (can’t stop) jumping up and down I can’t stop smiling,” Pontac added.
The court’s 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month’s time.
The high court itself said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.
The outcome was not along ideological lines.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.
“We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,” Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.
Four justices, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, said the court should have decided the constitutional question that was before it.
San Francisco officials and the city’s former mayor are claiming victory.
Former Mayor Gavin Newsom said at City Hall after Wednesday’s ruling that San Francisco is a city of “doers” that not only tolerates diversity, but celebrates it every day. He called Wednesday a special day.
Newsom ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, starting gay marriage in California.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the ruling a great victory. He said people criticized the city in 2004, saying it was moving too fast in granting marriage licenses. But he said he believes the only way to get things done is to “kick down the door.”
The Supreme Court also ruled Wednesday that legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people. The vote was 5-4.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
“Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,” Kennedy said.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,” he said.
Outside the court, supporters of same-sex marriage burst into cheers of “DOMA is Dead” and some wept openly upon hearing word of the decision.
Some in the crowd hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. today when the decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.
Chants of “Thank you” and “USA” came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court’s marbled steps
Amanda Klinger, 29, and Caroline Hunt, 26, of Washington, DC, were awaiting the ruling anxiously.
Hunt said she cried and jumped up and down when she heard the news from a neighbor in the crowd, said she felt “relieved.” Klinger said she no longer feels like “a second class citizen.”
Most of the people who spilled across the sidewalk in front of the court were gay marriage supporters. One held a rainbow flag and another wore a rainbow shawl, and a number of people carried signs with messages including “2 moms make a right” and “ ‘I Do’ Support Marriage Equality.”
— Davis Enterprise staff writer Tom Sakash contributed to this report.