At issue in Hollingsworth v. Perry is whether a panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was correct when it ruled 2-to-1 in February that the 2008 California ballot initiative, Proposition 8, violated the equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples seeking to marry.
The issue of same-sex marriage arose after the California Supreme Court interpreted the state constitution as requiring the recognition of same-sex marriages.
Supporters of the traditional definition of marriage objected and organized a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution. The Prop. 8 amendment read: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
In the months before the statewide vote, 18,000 same-sex couples took advantage of the ruling and were married.
The campaign for and against Prop. 8 was bitter and divisive. Prop. 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote.
After the amendment passed, two same-sex couples filed suit in federal court in San Francisco, charging that Prop. 8 violated the US Constitution. A federal judge conducted a trial and ruled for the couples, declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
A federal appeals court also ruled for the couples, but on different grounds. The appeals court, in a 2-to-1 decision, said that because California had earlier recognized a right for same-sex couples to marry, it could not later seek to terminate that right in a way that punished same-sex couples.