American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

5 Year anniversary of historic California marriage decision

Five years ago today, the California Supreme Court struck down a state law banning marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin were the first couple to marry in San Francisco 30 days later, when the decision went into effect.

As the L.A. Times noted, the ruling was the most historic and sweeping decision of its kind to date:

The court was poised 4 to 3 not only to legalize same-sex marriage but also to extend to sexual orientation the same broad protections against bias previously saved for race, gender and religion. The decision went further than any other state high court’s and would stun legal scholars, who have long characterized George and his court as cautious and middle of the road.

Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote the opinion for the majority:

The Republican-appointed judge noted at the time that the decision was one of the most important one he had written in his nearly 40 years on the bench:

An estimated 18,000 gay and lesbian couples were married in the state before Prop. 8 was passed later that year.  Because the initiative amended the California State Constitution, the State Supreme Court later upheld it, leading to AFER’s challenge in federal court.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected by the end of next month.