Federal judge overturns California's Proposition 8

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August 4, 2010

Complete text of the decision

SAN FRANCISCO, California: In a 138-page decision in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, released on Wednesday, August 4 at 4 p.m. Pacific, federal judge Vaughn Walker has ruled that California Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution and is therefore invalid and unenforceable.[1]

Sentences excerpted from the ruling include, "Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians...," "Stereotypes and misinformation have resulted in social and legal disadvantages for gays and lesbians...," "The right to marry protects an individual's choice of marital partner regardless of gender..." and "Domestic partnerships do not satisfy California's obligation to allow plaintiffs to marry."

According to Walker's decision, Prop 8 violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. He also wrote, "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."[2]

Perry v. Schwarzenegger was filed on May 22, 2009 with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The non-jury trial began on January 11, 2010.[3]

Celebrated attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintffs.[4]

The lawsuit was sponsored by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, led by Chad Griffin, and financed in part by Rob Reiner.[5]

Basis said to be irrational

In this decision, Judge Walker wrote that testimony in the trial did not reveal a rational basis for banning same-sex marriage. Looking at the conduct of the campaign to pass the proposition, he wrote that it revealed a different motive for banning same-sex marriage; namely, the desire by supporters to claim a moral superiority for heterosexual marriages:

"The evidence at trial regarding the campaign to pass Proposition 8 uncloaks the most likely explanation for its passage: a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex couples. FF 79-80....The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples."

Reaction to ruling

Supporters of the right of same-sex couples to marry reacted to the ruling with jubilation, while the National Organization for Marriage sent out an e-blast within minutes of the release of the decision that said, "This is a ruling that not only ignores the clear, legally-enacted will of the people of California, but jeopardizes the marriage laws of 45 states and threatens to strip millions of Americans of our core civil right to vote for marriage."

See also