American Foundation for Equal Rights

Prop. 8 Plaintiffs’ Statement on Striking Down of Initiative

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Landmark Trial Leads to Decision Upholding Equal Protection Under the Law

The Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, striking down California’s Proposition 8 and finding that it violates the U.S. Constitution by denying gay men and lesbians the fundamental right to marry and denying them equal protection under the law. The ruling reestablishes the equal marriage rights in California that were stripped away by Prop. 8.

The plaintiffs in the case are two couples who want to marry but who were blocked by Prop 8: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.

“We came to court to seek for Kris, Sandy, Paul and Jeff the same right to marry that all other Americans enjoy, and to ensure that they receive equal protection under the law as guaranteed to every American by the Constitution. Through its decision today, the court has acted in the best traditions of a legal system established to uphold the Constitution and the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded,” said attorney Theodore B. Olson.  “On no less than 14 occasions, the Supreme Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right.  This decision recognizes that Proposition 8 denied the plaintiffs, and tens-of-thousands of other Californians, that fundamental constitutional right and treated them unequally.”

“The Supreme Court has long held that marriage is a fundamental right. Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and this ruling affirms that universal right of every American,” plaintiff’s attorney David Boies said. “Depriving the fundamental right to marry causes grievous harm to millions of Americans and their children.”

“For our entire lives, our government and the law have treated us as unequal. This decision to ensure that our constitutional rights are as protected as everyone else’s makes us incredibly proud of our country,” Perry said.

“Kris and I have raised four children, own a home and have professional careers. But because of Proposition 8, our family is still not complete. For us, equal rights are about our family having the recognition and protections that other families have,” Stier said.

“We just want to get married, just like our friends, family and relatives can. We are thankful to live in a nation of equal laws,” Katami said.

“We hope this decision brings us closer to the day when Americans no longer have to fight in court for the rights the Constitution says we all already have. We are grateful that the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies came together to fight for us, and millions of others, so that finally, every American will truly be equal under the law,” Zarrillo said.

“This decision follows the founding constitutional principle that every American is to be treated equally under the law. No law may violate the U.S. Constitution, and our courts were established to protect against unfair laws,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin. “Today was an example of our nation living up to its founding ideals.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights brought together Theodore Olson and David Boies, who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore, to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates Americans’ constitutional rights by creating two separate classes of people with different laws for each one, contrary to the nation’s founding principles, including equal protection under the law.

This unprecedented federal court challenge was filed in May 2009, with both sides presenting their cases in court from Jan. 11 to Jan. 27. After Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, analyzed evidence, testimony, and briefs, closing arguments were held on June 16.

Leading civil rights organizations, legal scholars, doctors, scientists, and religious organizations have filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs, including: the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF), Asian Law Caucus, National Black Justice Coalition, South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, ACLU, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, retired California Court of Appeal Justice Donald King, family law professors from across the state, American Anthropological Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics California Chapter.


Recently, John Podesta, head of the progressive Center for American Progress, and Robert Levy, head of the libertarian Cato Institute, were named co-chairs of the American Foundation for Equal Rights Advisory Board, which also includes NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, UFW Founder Dolores Huerta and FOX News Commentator Margaret Hoover.

See the Podesta-Levy Washington Post Op-Ed here:

Kris and Sandy have been together for more than ten years and their family includes four boys. Both are in public service — Kris leads a childhood health and education agency and Sandy works for a county health department. Their home life centers around their kids, with PTA meetings, soccer and music lessons taking up much of their free time.

Paul and Jeff have been together for nine years. Jeff is a general manager for a movie theater company and Paul is a business owner. They own a home together and are proud uncles.

The powerful testimony of the plaintiffs, along with the presentation of 17 witnesses and revealing cross-examination of the defendant-intervenors’ witnesses, clearly exposed the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8.

A summary of the trial is available at:

“More than 30 years ago, the United States Supreme Court recognized that marriage is one of the basic rights of man,” the suit against Prop. 8 states, referring to the Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down bans on interracial marriage.