Judge Vaughn Walker has just issued his ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.
Walker wrote, “Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Walker also was clear that the Proposition 8 should not be enforced. “Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of
judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8.”
He also said, “California’s obligation is to treat its citizens equally.”
He said that the ban on marriage is an “artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.”
He said that gays and lesbians are a “suspect class,” entitled to a higher level of scrutiny in laws that single them out, but said that Prop 8 fails the constitutional test even at a lesser standard of review.
“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”
But Walker at least temporarily stayed his judgment, meaning that the question of when marriages would begin again is still uncertain. Both sides have until Friday to file motions on whether the ruling should be stayed for a longer period until the Prop 8 proponents can appeal. The official defendants in the case, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger and California Attorney General Jerry Brown, declined to defend it in court, leaving it to the proposition’s official supporters, Protect Marriage.com, to intervene. Led by Charles Cooper, they are vowing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Brown said in a statement: “In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it: Proposition 8 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest.”
The complete ruling is here.
Appearing at a San Francisco press conference after the decision, David Boies, who represented the plaintiffs along with Ted Olson, said, “Today we eliminate the last official area of discrimination.”
Olson vowed to fight efforts to stay the decision, arguing that same-sex marriages should begin as soon as possible.
Schwarzengger said in a statement, “For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves,” the governor said. “At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future, and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity.”
The White House issued this statement to The Advocate: “The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans.”
Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign offered this statement: “This ruling is an historic milestone for millions of loving families, for all who have fought to realize the dream of equality under the law, and for our nation as a whole,” said Courage Campaign Founder and Chairman Rick Jacobs. “While today concludes the first step in a legal process that could take up to two years, Judge Walker’s ruling is a landmark victory in America’s centuries long war against discrimination, and the result of months of extraordinary work by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, and courageous plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.”
A number of entertainment figures Tweeted the news, including Ellen DeGeneres, who wrote, “this just in Equality won!” She later wrote a blog post in which she said, “When Prop 8 was passed two years ago, I said, “One day we will look back
and realize how wrong this is.” Now, we’ve made a huge step forward. In
today’s ruling, the court stated that Prop 8 “fails to advance any
rational basis” for denying the right to marry, and the court is right.
We’re all equal, and we should all have equal rights. I’m so grateful
for today’s decision.”
Cynthia Nixon told the Advocate, “This is an exciting moment for everyone who believes in the
constitutional guarantee of equal rights for all. It’s a beautiful day
in California today. New York is hoping to bask in some of that sunshine
before too long. “