Liberal 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who struck down California’s Proposition 8 as well as gay marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho, and wrote a ruling that barred jurors from being removed because of sexual orientation, has died at 87.
Reinhardt died suddenly during a medical appointment according to a Court spokesman.
One of his most important rulings withstood appeals: a decision in February 2012 that struck down Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that California voters had approved in November 2008. Rather than declare a constitutional right for gays and lesbians to wed their chosen partners, Reinhardt crafted a narrower decision, based on past Supreme Court rulings that said a state could not withdraw rights in order to harm a politically unpopular group. Same-sex couples had briefly been allowed to marry in California, based on a state Supreme Court ruling that was repealed by Prop. 8.
“The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry,” Reinhardt wrote for a 2-1 majority.
The high court reached the same conclusion in 2013 on even narrower grounds, declaring that after Gov. Jerry Brown and the state attorney general’s office refused to defend Prop. 8, the measure’s private sponsors had a right to represent the public and appeal a federal judge’s ruling that declared the measure unconstitutional. Two years later, the court issued a broad ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
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