WEST VILLAGE — Proposition 8, a California law banning gay marriage, was declared unconstitutional Tuesday by a federal appeals court, prompting celebration and praise from gay rights advocates across New York.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a ruling Tuesday affirming a lower court’s decision that the 2008 state-voter initiative also known as Prop 8, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, violated the 14th Amendment by treating same-sex couples unequally.
"By using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so, the People of California violated the Equal Protection Clause," the court said in a decision summary.
"The panel majority concluded that 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 to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," it said.
The decision was hailed by local officials and advocates, who less than a year ago celebrated when same-sex couples were granted the right to exchange vows in New York.
"We're not going to let anyone else's government say we're not as good as anyone else!" said Christine Quinn, the City Council’s first openly lesbian speaker, speaking to a crowd in front of the historic Stonewall Inn in the West Village, where nearly 100 people gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the ruling.
Quinn, who declared the decision "a second reason to celebrate" after the Giants Super Bowl victory, added that even though New York has passed same-sex marriage, the fight isn't over.
"It's great that I can get married in my hometown. But it's not enough until everybody can get married in their own town," she said.
Her words echoed others in the crowd, who chanted "I deserve full equality!" as a handful waved signs.
Darren Rosenblum, 42, who lives in Chelsea, came with his 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Melina, to celebrate with friends, and said he'd already spent time poring over the decision.
"It's amazing. It's a great piece of writing," he said. "I'm hopeful it will be upheld. But we'll see."
Tuesday’s decision upholds an August 2010 ruling by a lower court striking down Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008.
That decision prompted large celebrations, including in New York City, where hundreds of supporters descended on Manhattan Supreme Court, waving rainbow flags and white carnations, to celebrate and demand legal marriage here.
While Tuesday's celebration was more subued, Cathy Marino-Thomas, executive director of Marriage Equality New York, said the ruling is part of what she sees as a larger push for marriage equality across the nation.
"This is the beginning!" she said, calling on supporters to step up efforts through phone banking, even though gay marriage is legal in New York. "The tide is coming now."
Anthony Brown, 49, who came to celebrate with his husband, Gary Spino, and their 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Nicholas, said he, too, feels like progress is finally being made.
"We have been fighting for marriage equality since 2000, so today was a continuing positive step" said the West Villager. "We're seeing a lot of momentum."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that gay marriage has been a boon to the city's economy and that "it is only a matter of time before all marriages here are recognized in all 50 states."
“Today, America’s march of freedom took another long stride on the path toward a more perfect union," he said in a statement. "The 9th Circuit found that government has no business denying some couples access to equal protection under the law — and that is only right, because the freedom to marry is not a benefit conferred by government, but the birthright of every American."
Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, added that "it is very heartening that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California agrees that all loving committed couples should be able to marry and their families offered the same legal protections as others."
The decision is expected to be appealed again, either in the same court or the Supreme Court.