Perry v. Schwarzenegger/1:Background to Proposition 8

[p. 1] Plaintiffs challenge a November 2008 voter-enacted amendment to the California Constitution ("Proposition 8" or "Prop 8"). Cal Const Art I, § 7.5. In its entirety, Proposition 8 provides: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Plaintiffs allege that Proposition 8 deprives them of due process and of equal protection of the laws contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment and that its enforcement by state officials violates 42 USC § 1983.

Plaintiffs are two couples. Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier reside in Berkeley, California and raise four children together. Jeffrey Zarrillo and Paul Katami reside in Burbank, California. Plaintiffs seek to marry their respective partners and have been denied marriage licenses by their respective county authorities on the basis of Proposition 8. No party contended, and no evidence at trial suggested, that the county authorities had any ground to deny marriage licenses to plaintiffs other than Proposition 8.

Having considered the trial evidence and the arguments of counsel, the court pursuant to FRCP 52(a) finds that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that its enforcement must be enjoined.

BACKGROUND TO PROPOSITION 8

In November 2000, the voters of California adopted Proposition 22 through the state's initiative process. Entitled the California Defense of Marriage Act, Proposition 22 amended the state's Family Code by adding the following language: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Cal Family Code § 308.5. This amendment further codified the existing definition of marriage as "a relationship [p. 2] between a man and a woman. In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d 384, 407 (Cal 2008).

In February 2004, the mayor of San Francisco instructed county officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The following month, the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop issuing such licenses and later nullified the marriage licenses that same-sex couples had received. See Lockyer v City & County of San Francisco, 95 P3d 459 (Cal 2004). The court expressly avoided addressing whether Proposition 22 violated the California Constitution.

Shortly thereafter, San Francisco and various other parties filed state court actions challenging or defending California's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage under the state constitution. These actions were consolidated in San Francisco superior court; the presiding judge determined that, as a matter of law, California's bar against marriage by same-sex couples violated the equal protection guarantee of Article I Section 7 of the California Constitution. In re Coordination Proceeding, Special Title [Rule 1550(c)], 2005 WL 583129 (March 14, 2005). The court of appeal reversed, and the California Supreme Court granted review. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court invalidated Proposition 22 and held that all California counties were required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. See In re Marriage Cases, 189 P3d 384. From June 17, 2008 until the passage of Proposition 8 in November of that year, San Francisco and other California counties issued approximately 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

[p. 3] After the November 2008 election, opponents of Proposition 8 challenged the initiative through an original writ of mandate in the California Supreme Court as violating the rules for amending the California Constitution and on other grounds; the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 against those challenges. Strauss v Horton, 207 P3d 48 (Cal 2009). Strauss leaves undisturbed the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed in the four and a half months between the decision in In re Marriage Cases and the passage of Proposition 8. Since Proposition 8 passed, no same-sex couple has been permitted to marry in California.