California has officially repealed the marriage law that led to Prop. 8


Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters outside the Old Governors Mansion on election night in Sacramento, Calif., on June 3. (Jose Luis Villegas/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Same-sex couples in California have been able to marry for more than a year now, but until this week, the state’s law restricting marriage was still on the books.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday repealing the state’s law defining marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman. The law was passed by voters in November 2008, before the California Supreme Court found that it violated the state’s Constitution in May of that year. In November 2000, marriage between same-sex couples was outlawed again when voters passed Proposition 8, adding language defining marriage as between a man and a woman to the state Constitution. It’s been estimated that 18,000 same-sex couples married in that window.

“This legislation removes outdated and biased language from state codes and recognizes all married spouses equally, regardless of their gender,” said Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat and the bill’s sponsor in a statement. “I am pleased Gov. Brown has recognized the importance of this bill, which makes it explicitly clear in state law that every loving couple has the right to marry in California.”

The bill, SB1306, also eliminates the words “husband” and “wife” from California’s Family Code, replacing it with “spouse.” It passed 54-16.

Prop. 8 is still technically part of California’s Constitution, despite being ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in June 2013, and two days later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted its injunction blocking the ruling that it was unconstitutional.

Hunter Schwarz covers state and local politics and policy across the country for the Washington Post.
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