Well, yeah. As the federal court of appeals panel noted, “Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” And that’s not a nice thing to do.
I’ll have more thoughts on this in a bit, when I get caught up on the details. In the meantime, here’s the actual text of the ruling for you to peruse.
Update: Okay, just read the ruling. As I read it, this basically boils down to something I’ve noted before, which is that Prop 8 existed for the sole purpose of taking away from a particular group of people a right they already had (and which, in the case of the state of California, 18,000 couples availed themselves of), and that’s pretty easy to mark as a violation of the Constitution.
The ruling also takes a bat to what passes for the justifications the pro-Prop 8 had for keeping Prop 8 on the books; the court says two things, which are “You guys aren’t actually aware of California law, are you?” and also “If the text of law doesn’t say it, than the law doesn’t do it,” the latter being a response to the idea that Prop 8 was designed to put a pause on same-sex marriage when in fact the text makes it clear that a “pause” was not part of the plan.
Upshot: You can’t withdraw from people a right they already have just because they’re getting their gay cooties all over the institution of marriage. As I said earlier: well, yeah.
I’ll additionally note the judges did a fine job of keeping the ruling as limited as they possibly could, passing up every opportunity to widen the scope of the ruling or make larger constitutional pronouncements. This might disappoint folks who were hoping for a grand gesture that said “same sex marriage for all!” but I think the court recognized that this ruling would almost certainly be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and wanted to give the SCOTUS as much of a reason as possible not to take the appeal, or if they do take it up, to let it stand. A narrow ruling dealing only with California is better likely to achieve that than a wider ruling. Thus, the focus on California law, dropping in federal law only when necessary and studiously avoiding any larger constitutional implications. I think it’s probably a smart way to go but I also acknowledge it’s not my ability to be married that’s up for discussion here.
In sum, I am (not surprisingly) pleased with this ruling. I hope it sticks.