Marriage Ruling Gave Gay People Legal Protection// gotta read the fine print…

On page 100 of the 124-page ruling, in dense legal prose, Chief Justice Ronald George ruled that a special constitutional protection applies to people based on their sexual orientation.

Thanks a lot Chief Justice. It looks like someone finally read the May 2008 ruling on the legality of Prop 22, in its entirety, and found a little morsel for gays to use come next week when arguments on the legality of Prop 8’s Constitutional Amendment begin in California’s Supreme Court.

In essence, the court said discrimination against gays and lesbians was equivalent to racial, age or gender discrimination, giving same-sex-rights advocates a powerful legal weapon in the future.

The special protection the court gave in May – which Proposition 8 does not affect – means that any state law or policy that is alleged to discriminate against gays and lesbians now will be analyzed under the most stringent legal standard a court can apply. Few laws survive such a test, known as “strict scrutiny.” [Strict scrutiny is the most stringent standard of judicial review used by United States courts reviewing federal law.]

The court’s findings in May now strengthen the protections to gays and lesbians where employment and health care are concerned, as well as in other areas,

It would be harder for judges to use sexual orientation as a reason to deny gays and lesbians certain rights, such as in child-custody cases and employment cases. And if in the future a new Legislature wanted to roll back some of the laws extending protections to gays and lesbians, it would be impossible, Greenberg said.

Shaun Martin, a law professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, said it “will make it easier for gays and lesbians to strike at non-marriage laws that may subtly or not so subtly discriminate against them.”

“You are going to have over the next 10 years lawsuits against government for doing things that have an adverse impact on gays and lesbians. And they will cite this case a lot,” Martin said.

Read more about the potential fall-out from the May ruling, here.