Download this document (PDF)
Hollingsworth v. Perry (Proposition 8)
On March 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure that repealed marriage for same-sex couples in California by amending the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Specifically, the court will decide two questions:
- Does Proposition 8 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution?
- Do Proposition 8 supporters have legal standing to bring the case forward in the first place?
The story behind Hollingsworth v. Perry
The case was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, who wanted to get married in California but were not allowed to under Proposition 8. The attorneys for the case, David Boies and Theodore Olsen, argued that California’s Proposition 8 deprived these couples of equal protection under the law upon their request for a marriage license. The State of California, as well as various elected officials in the state, declined to defend the new California constitutional provision. Therefore, proponents of Proposition 8, ProtectMarriage.com, led by Dennis Hollingsworth, sought to intervene as defendants, filling the State’s void.
A federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have both found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.
History and Timeline
Feb. 12, 2004: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom instructs city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Over four weeks, nearly 4,000 same-sex couples received marriage licenses.
Mar. 11, 2004: The California Supreme Court unanimously orders San Francisco to stop marrying same-sex couples and announces that it will rule on the legality of the city’s actions within the next few months.
Aug. 12, 2004: The California Supreme Court rules unanimously that San Francisco’s mayor overstepped his authority by issuing same-sex marriage licenses. In a 5-2 vote, the court declares the 4,000 marriages of gay and lesbian couples that had been sanctioned by the city void.
Sept. 29, 2005: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes a marriage equality bill after it passed the states Senate and Assembly.
Oct. 12, 2007: Governor Schwarzenegger again vetoes a bill that would legalize marriage equality.
May 15, 2008: The California Supreme Court rules that the State’s Constitution protects a fundamental “right to marry” that extends equally to same-sex couples. Thousands of same-sex couples begin to wed in California.
Nov. 4, 2008: California voters pass Proposition 8 and strip thousands of same-sex couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriage they were afforded since May.
May 26, 2009: The California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8’s ban on marriage equality, but also rules that same-sex couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.
Aug. 4, 2010: U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, a federal judge in San Francisco, rules that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Feb. 7, 2012: A federal appeals court affirms Walker’s decision striking down California’s ban on marriage for same- sex couples, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the freedom to marry.
May 9, 2012: President Obama becomes the first sitting president to support marriage equality.
Dec. 7, 2012: The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case.