SAN FRANCISO, CA, February 7, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – This morning, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a 2-1 vote that a California constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

In an 89-page ruling that cited William Shakespeare and Marilyn Monroe, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

In 2008, California voters approved the state constitutional amendment defending marriage by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who is in a long-term homosexual relationship, ruled in August 2010 that the measure “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The Ninth Circuit court panel upheld Walker, ruling that since same-sex couples once had the right to call their unions “marriage” in that state reversing it constituted unconstitutional discrimination. Same-sex marriage was briefly legalized in the state after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of it in March 2008. “Had Marilyn Monroe’s film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie, even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different,” Reinhardt wrote.

“For now, it suffices to conclude that the people of California may not, consistent with the federal Constitution, add to their state constitution a provision that has no more practical effect than to strip gays and lesbians of their right to use the official designation that the state and society give to committed relationships.”

He added that Judge Walker did not have to disclose his own same-sex relationship.

Judge N.R. Smith, who was appointed by George W. Bush, cast the lone dissent.

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Pro-family organizations were outraged, but not surprised, by the Ninth Circuit panel’s decision.

“This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

Brian Raum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said he was “not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage – tried in San Francisco – turned out this way.”

Traditional marriage advocates believe the lower courts overreached badly. “Never before has a federal appeals court—or any federal court for that matter—found a right to gay marriage under the U.S. Constitution,” said constitutional scholar John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.

Litigants have the right to appeal to the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or directly to the Supreme Court. Several activists have said they plan to bypass the Ninth Circuit, which is known for its left-leaning decisions.

Judge Reinhardt, who was appointed to the court by former president Jimmy Carter, “is one of the most overturned judges in the most overturned court in the U.S.” said William B. May, president of Catholics for the Common Good. “To reach his judgment about the voters and his decision to strike down Prop. 8, he created a new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship for the benefit of adults. However, the voters of California know that marriage is much more than that. It is the reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union…It is a reality that can only be recognized by law and never changed.”   

The Supreme Court would not likely hear the case before spring 2013, unless it chose to expedite the case.

Observers say any decision to overturn the California amendment would provoke a national backlash. Voters in 31 states have chosen to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Twenty-nine, a majority of American states, have actually inserted such a definition into the text of their state constitutions,” Perkins wrote. “We remain confident that in the end, the Supreme Court will reject the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a ‘right’ to homosexual ‘marriage,’ and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.”