Illustrated by Leigh Douglas

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, it was announced that the California federal appeals court found Prop 8 — the notoriously controversial ban on gay marriage — unconstitutional and discriminatory toward a minority set of people.

While this ruling is historic, the battle for marriage equality is anything but over. As far as California is concerned, opponents to the recent court ruling can appeal in the Ninth Circuit or go straight to the Supreme Court — and it is likely they will.

As for now, the stay on gay marriages in California will stand, as litigation continues.

Like California, many states are addressing the issue, and currently Washington state has introduced legislation to legalize gay marriage. If passed, our neighbors to the north will be only the seventh state in the nation to give LGBT couples equal marriage rights.

While the Washington legislation has already passed in the state senate, it now heads to the House and many are eagerly waiting to hear the legislature’s decision. Many are hopeful the legislation will pass — we here at City on a Hill are hopeful — but even if it does, it will not be the end of the struggle.

Even as the bill floats through the House, even as representatives read over it and argue legal nuances, even before it has been brought into law, opponents to the legislation are preparing to counter the bill. If the legislation passes, it’s expected that a referendum will be placed on the ballot, and decisions about the basic rights and happiness of many people will be made by the public.

But this is where people can make a difference, and for this reason it’s important to vote, it’s important to stay informed and it’s important to let the government know it is unacceptable to deny people the right to marry based on sexual orientation.

In 2008, when Prop 8 was on the ballot and won by a margin at just barely over 52 percent, it was a referendum to a court ruling. Prop 8 was a conservative response to a California Supreme Court decision stating that marriage was a constitutional right regardless of sexual orientation.

Gay marriage and LGBT rights are a contentious issue to say the least, and in states like California and Washington, they are divisive — communities are split down the center, and the difference between supporting and not supporting something like Prop 8 is marginal. The only way to ensure our voices and our support for gay marriage are heard and understood by our government and by our representatives is to take action — to vote, to educate and to advocate.

Marriage equality has been and continues to be a grueling series of legislative battles and court cases, but it’s worth it — it’s worth it because these are men and women and their families being denied equal rights in the eyes of the law. This is bigger than religion — this is an issue of civil rights and human dignity.