Just like that, with the bang of a gavel, the U.S. Court of Appeals rules California's controversial ballot initiative Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
Actually, although the ruling seems swift, the tug of war over gay marriage in the Golden State has been in process for many years and may not be over.
Prop 8: A Long Journey
Proposition 8 (officially called the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act) was an initiative on the November 2008 California voter ballot which altered the California Constitution by defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
The original title of the measure was "California Marriage Protection Act," but then Attorney General Jerry Brown changes it to "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act" to better reflect what the true meaning of the measure.
Who's Who In The Proposition 8 Case
On March 5, 2009, hearings start in the California Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Prop 8. The high court has 90 days to come to a decision and responds by upholding Proposition 8, reinforcing the ban on same-sex marriage. Loss for gay rights. The 18,000 couples married prior to the ban get to keep their licenses and rights despite the ruling. Loss: gay couples.
But the legal battles isn't over. Former San Francisco District Court Judge Vaughn Walker takes the case on appeal and asks Prop 8 backers to prove the legality of their arguments by answering a series of 39 questions.
Walker Retires After Prop 8 Ruling
Fast forward to November 19, 2009, in the middle of heavy legal battles and national protests on both sides of the argument, Robin Tyle and Diane Olson, the first same-sex couple to marry in Los Angeles County, along with two other parties file a lawsuit to fight the constitutional amendment. The state's high court agrees to consider the cases. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger calls the passing of Prop 8 "unfortunate" and expresses hope that the Supreme Court will overturn the measure.
A month later, then Attorney General and now Gov. Jerry Brown personally claims Prop 8 is invalid and files an injunction, urging the California Supreme Court to invalidate it.
The case is heard and on January 11, 2010, Attorney Ted Olson shocks the nation by asking Plaintiff Kristin Perry what it means to be a lesbian in emotion-driven and very public opening arguments.
Olson and Boise Talk About Prop 8 at New York Times Event
Twelve days later the jury-less trail ends and presiding judge Vaughn R. Walker prepares for closing arguments the following March, ultimately ruling Prop 8 unconstitutional. Win: gay rights.
As LGBT people and allies celebrate, anti-gay marriage pundits call foul. Judge Walker comes out of the closet shortly after the Prop 8 trial concludes, admitting to a 10-year relationship with another man. Opponents say the potential gay bias is insurmountable.
Should Gay Judges Preside Over Gay Cases?
Their argument doesn't stand. Judge Walker's ruling is upheld. Meanwhile, former Gov. Schwarzenegger and AT Brown say they would not be bullied into to defending Prop 8 by coalitions of conservative and religious groups.
Still, as Olson and Boise predict, the fight for California gay marriage isn't over. Another appeal is on the horizon. There's so much attention surrounding this case that it's now obvious that the ultimate winner will shape gay rights in California and the entire country for years to come.
Enter the three panel United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Arguments about the constitutionality of Proposition 8 continue and the court once again sided with Olson and Boise in a 2 to 1 ruling: Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Huge win: gay right!
Is This The End of Prop 8?
MLK said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
You can bet, with all that's been invested, we haven't heard the end of anti-gay marriage supporters just as pro-gay camps will continue to voice their support for equality. What next? By law, Prop 8ers can ask that the case be heard by a larger panel of the United States Court of Appeals or take it directly to the Supreme Court, exactly what Olson and Boise want.
Olson and Boies share confidence: "[Prop 8 is] an important enough issue that I feel the [Supreme Court] justices will say, 'We have to hear this.'"
Olson and Boies don't just want the division title, they're going for the big game. A win in the Supreme Court means that more than likely all of the anti-gay laws, especially the dreaded Defense of Marriage Act, will crumble. Ultimate win: LGBTers everywhere!
Former Speaker of the House and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the ruling was "a victory for civil rights and for progress" for the LGBT community. "Together," she went on, "we will make every discriminatory marriage amendment and law a thing of the past."