UPDATE: More details on tonight's celebratory rally (see end of post) . . .
In a landmark case, Proposition 8, the 2008 California voter initiative that outlawed gay marriage, was overturned. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ruled that the voter initiative is unconstitutional.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that
Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and
that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until
state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8,” the appointee of President George H.W. Bush said in his ruling.
Walker declared that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution on two
counts: due process and equal protection clauses.
“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,” Walker wrote.
Five months after the state Supreme Court declared that same-sex
marriage was legal, California voters in November 2008 narrowly
approved Prop 8 and took away the right despite the fact that more than
18,000 gay and lesbians couples had legally married.
The fact that the Golden State did not break off from the continent and tumble into the sea as a result of those marriages played a part in Walker's ruling, where he wrote, “California is able
to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued
18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any
demonstrated harm as a result . . . moreover, California officials have
chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.”
His ruling came as a result of a lesbian couple having filed a lawsuit stating Prop 8 violated their rights on constitutional grounds. He heard from scores of
witnesses who testified about the history of marriage, the nature of
homosexuality and the degree of power gays and lesbians possess in the
political system. Most testimony favored marriage equality.
In his ruling, Walker squashed like a Central Valley grape the defense notion that gays make terrible parents.
Among those who immediately hailed the decision was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said it sets the stage for California to further lead the country is ensuring fairness and equal rights for all.
“I believe everyone deserves” the right to marry, the Republican governor said.
Walker also announced he has granted a temporary stay of his decision, which likely prevents same-sex couples from immediately going to courthouses to get married. It could therefore be months before such marriages resume.
The San Jose Mercury News previously reported Prop 8 supporters asked for the stay the night before Walker issued his ruling. The motion
indicates that the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be immediately asked to review Walker's decision.
“A stay is essential,” the lawyers wrote, “to averting the harms that
would flow from another purported window of same-sex marriage in
As part of its live coverage of the ruling, CNN interviewed UC Irvine School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky,
who said the ruling is “very important because it's the first court
that's found the prohibition on same-sex marriage violates the U.S.
He noted that previous decisions where rulings were made in favor of marriage equality found that bans violate the respective state's constitution.
This ruling thus sets up an eventual showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, although Chemerinsky noted California's may not be the first law bearing on gay marriage to reach the Supremes.
An earlier ruling elsewhere against the federal Defense of Marriage Act may reach the Supreme Court first, said the legal scholar, who added a decision on that could have a bearing on how justices eventually rule on Prop 8.
“It's still a long way before it gets to the Supreme Court,” Chemerinsky cautioned, “and it's uncertain what they would do.”
He believes Walker ruled the way he did because the Prop 8 defense team failed to prove the government has a legitimate reason to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying.
CNN moderate-GOP commentator David Gergen noted that Walker is no radical liberal jurist, having risen in the federal courts thanks to Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan, who believed him to be conservative.
But Walker previously bucked the party when he ruled against Bush Jr.'s warrantless wiretaps.
Center Long Beach sent the following message re: Day of Decision Long Beach – Federal Trial on Proposition 8 – Rally Tonight!:
Just minutes ago Federal Court Judge Walker rules Proposition 8
unconstitutional “under both the due-process and equal-protection
This is a step in the right direction but the fight for equality is not
over! What does this mean for California? What are our next steps?
Join us at the Long Beach community rally for equality and social
justice for all tonight, Wednesday, August 4th, at 6 p.m. at Bixby Park
(Cherry Avenue & Broadway) in Long Beach.
Bixby Park: 130 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, CA 90802.
Link via Google Maps here.
Participating Community Partners Include:
Shout Long Beach
Get Out Long Beach
The Center Long Beach
The AMP Organization
Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club
First Congregational Church
Human Rights Campaign – Long Beach/Orange County