The effects of Prop 8 on the more than 16,000 gay couples in California who got married after the state high court authorized them to do so is much less clear. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has opined that he believes those marriages will not get washed out by Prop 8. His position comports with the general intuition that retroactive legislation should not deprive people of vested rights like marriage.
However, that intuition will not necessarily be vindicated. As I have pointed out elsewhere, there is a surprising dearth of federal constitutional authority that would protect existing same-sex marriages from retroactive attempts to undo them. It may well be, as California constitutional-law professor Grace Blumberg of UCLA has argued, that the California Constitution would preclude the retroactive application of Prop 8. But as most experts agree, the outcome here is uncertain.
This is in part because a court might find that Prop 8 does not even constitute retroactive legislation. The amendment states that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." A court could find that the pre-election marriages remain in existence but that California cannot recognize their validity going forward. Under that interpretation, a California same-sex marriage that was valid before today could be recognized by another state but not in the Golden State itself. Indeed, a state like New York that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages—even though it doesn't yet grant same-sex marriages—might be required to recognize a pre-election California marriage because of a state court decision that ordered the recognition of same-sex and cross-sex marriages.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Proposition 8 creates a legal gray area for gay couples married in CA
Since the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I've been wondering about the status of all those couples who were married after the California Supreme Court ruling in May and before Election Day on Nov. 4. According to Kenji Yoshino of Slate, Prop. 8 has created a legal gray area: