The question of marriage equality took a step closer to the Supreme Court today. A majority of the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit opted not to hear a challenge to its earlier ruling that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Prop 8 is the amendment to California’s state constitution, approved by voters in 2008, that denied same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The rights of a minority should never be put up to a public referendum. That’s why today’s action is one more victory in the slow, incremental process of guaranteeing loving same-sex couples equal protection under the law.
Proponents of Prop 8 have 90 days to request that the Supreme Court review the case. Until the high court has made a final determination about the case, the 9th Circuit has put the kibosh on same-sex marriages in California.
Today’s ruling comes five days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled unanimously that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. That case will also make its way to the Supreme Court. What the nine justices will do is anybody’s guess.
To have DOMA challenges heard by this Supreme Court is a big gamble. But for the couples pursuing justice — and for those couples and their families who stand to benefit from a positive outcome — full equality under the law is well worth the risk.