Supreme Court Denies Standing in Prop 8 Case, Same-Sex Marriages May Resume in California

In its second gay rights case of the day, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to dismiss an appeal of Proposition 8 on standing. The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court striking down Prop 8 was “vacated and remanded,” meaning same-sex couples in California will once again have the right to marry — but marriage equality is not newly legalized anywhere else.

Hollingsworth v. Perry considered the constitutionality of a state law: Proposition 8, which amended California’s constitution to limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman. California voters passed Prop 8 through a ballot initiative in 2008, just five months after same-sex couples could begin to legally marry in the state. It was deemed unconstitutional in several lower courts, and the Supreme Court ruled petitioners did not have standing to appeal the district court order.

From the full opinion (PDF):

We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here. The Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

It’s absolutely incredible that LGBT couples in California will once again be able to marry — and now, have their marriages recognized federally with the repeal of DOMA moments ago — and we should be thrilled for them. That said, there is tons more work to be done.

The ambiguity in the Court’s decision signals that we’re not politically ready to prioritize basic human rights over the vote of a privileged majority. After all, neither decision explicitly states that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. This decision invites other states to begin their own battles over marriage equality laws that have already passed or those still in the works, and it certainly leaves the door wide open for the Court to make a more definitive decision in the future about the constitutional right to marriage. If the momentum of the LGBT rights movement keeps up, we may see other cases surface before too long.

This has been a grueling and emotional battle for many of us, but we have to remember that marriage isn’t the end. We need better treatment of LGBT people in the workplace and in education. We need to protect LGBT people who face a greater risk of homelessness, suicide, wrongful incarceration and violence. Across the board, we need to treat each other with greater respect and greater dignity.

The wait for these cases may be over, but the fight for equality certainly isn’t.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • flyb

    Excellent news! But just a little bit scary how close these decisions were.

  • Gus Snarp

    What’s the source of that image?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Imgur, a well-known propagator of politically-dubious chicanery of unknown provenance.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Matt Eggler

    Most courts decide the issue of standing at the start of proceedings, the Supreme Court leaves it as a back door to escape rulings they don’t want to make. By making this ruling they have basically said that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry but they want to avoid the shit-storm that such a decision would cause.

  • rwlawoffice

    This Supreme Court ruling was correct based upon the concept of standing. It is the same concept that prevents those that argue other cases in Federal court- you must have a personal stake in the outcome. It is not enough to simply have an interest in the outcome, even if that outcome involves constitutional rights.

    It was a legal ruling that allow them to avoid the real question of whether the constitution prohibits states from making these decisions one way or the other. In that regard it is consistent with the ruling on DOMA. Further cases in the future I am sure will address these issues directly.

  • the moother

    Congratulations to all!!!

    And condolences to those who live in the rest of the bigoted united states that are still not allowed to marry.

    Even France is more advanced than most of the states!

  • C Peterson

    No, it’s quite different. The people here who were denied standing didn’t demonstrate that there was a constitutional violation. If they could have done that, they should have had standing, regardless of any other issues of harm, since every citizen is fundamentally harmed by a constitutional violation against any other citizen.

  • rwlawoffice

    Those that opposed the District court’s ruling were the intervenors who were not personally harmed by the outcome. Without this personal harm the court held that they lacked standing. The court also pointed out that in the past they had been asked to give an opinion on the constitutionality of a law as an advisory opinion and they declined to do so. Without standing, that is what an opinion like this would be. Simply an advisory opinion which the court has no authority to give.

  • JET

    Fuck you, Mormon church.

  • b33bl3br0x

    Not particularly excellent it’s more of a mixed bag (EDIT: Mixed bag doesn’t quite convey what I was going for, perhaps “good first step”).

    Excellent would have been a decision that barring same sex marriage was unconstitutional, but at least prop 8 is still gone because the lowest court ruling was not over-ruled.

  • Gus Snarp

    Imgur is not a source of anything.

  • Gus Snarp


  • Rich Wilson

    allow them to avoid the real question

    I just wish the courts would more often recognize the need for a decision and clarity, and not use standing as an ‘out’ even if it applies. Certainly there are times to use it, but I think there are also cases where it could be argued that it would be in the public good to have an issue resolved.

    And that goes for decisions where I like the outcome and those where I don’t.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Imgur predicted you would say that. Blasphemer.

  • James Kindle
  • TheG

    I haven’t been able to parse through everything yet. I’m unsure of the impact of this ruling combined the 5th and 14th Amendments on one specific aspect of the debate.

    If the federal government now recognizes the rights of same sex couples, but there is no ruling on the right to gay marriage, are the states that don’t have same sex marriage required to recognize marriages legally performed in states that do? I’m still a little murky on this area.

  • Houndentenor

    Standing allowed the majority to avoid dealing with the topic for now. Note the strange bedfellows on both sides of the Prop 8 decision. Certainly their view on standing was not an indication of how they would have voted if they’d decided to take up the broader issues involved.

  • Houndentenor

    I have friends who are lawyers, and one law professor. Even they are re-reading the decision trying to answer nuts and bolts questions about what this means in practical terms for couples who married in one state but now live in one that does not recognize their marriage. It’s going to be a mess for awhile. Still, this is better than it was yesterday.

  • Guest

    Also, I like the thinly-veiled “fuck you” in the majority opinion by Roberts:

    “Their only interest in having the District Court order reversed was to vindicate the constitutional validity of a generally applicable California Law,” Roberts said. “We have repeatedly held that such a generalized grievance, no matter how sincere, is insufficient to confer standing.”

    “We have no authority to consider the question in their case,” he concluded, noting that the court’s role was to address disputes that were “judicial rather than political.”

    AKA, fuck your politics. You haven’t been wronged. Grow the fuck up

  • eric

    That’s a good question. As one wag on the radio put it, you can now file your federal taxes jointly but you may still have to file your state taxes separately.
    I am sure we will see another court case testing the interaction between federal and state rights before long. One dispute over who can visit a sick person in a hospital or over a legal will, and someone will be in court arguing that the states cannot infringe on a right granted by the federal government.

  • Hat Stealer

    Have I stumbled upon the little know Imgur conspiracy?

    They know…. they’re watching us… taking pictures of everything we do….

  • The Other Weirdo

    Imgur says little, but sees everything.