A federal judge has ruled that California’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman is unconstitutional, because it excludes same-sex unions.
Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who presides over the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, declared Proposition 8 had no “rational basis” in a 138-page ruling on the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case released Wednesday afternoon.
Walker struck down the amendment, which states “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” on the basis that it violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The judge dismissed the amendment, saying its restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples was “nothing more than an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.” He also added that it seemed to him proponents of Prop. 8 were defending the amendment on the basis of “moral disapproval,” which he said was “an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians” and enacted in law, “a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”
“Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians,” Walker also stated, adding that homosexuals have suffered “social and legal disadvantages” from “stereotypes and misinformation.”
“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license,” ruled Walker. “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.”
Walker’s decision immediately enjoins further enforcement by California officials of Proposition 8.
The challenge to Proposition 8 was filed by Ted Olson and David Boies, famous opponents in the Bush v. Gore case, on behalf of a male homosexual couple and a lesbian couple, both denied marriage licenses. The case is expected to head to the U.S. Supreme Court and it is feared that it could become the Roe v. Wade of traditional marriage in the United States.
Randy Thomasson of the pro-family group SaveCalifornia responded that “Natural marriage, voter rights, the Constitution, and our republic called the United States of America have all been dealt a terrible blow. Judge Walker has ignored the written words of the Constitution, which he swore to support and defend and be impartially faithful to, and has instead imposed his own homosexual agenda upon the voters, the parents, and the children of California.”
Walker, however, is himself an active homosexual, and some conservative critics of the Prop. 8 case contended that Walker would be too personally invested in the case to deliver an impartial outcome. Others pointed out that Walker has not had a history of proven bias in homosexual issues. He sided with the U.S. Olympics Committee in their copyright infringement case against the “Gay Olympics,” and also put a lien on an AIDS-stricken organizer’s home. But neither of those decisions was as personal as deciding the legal status of same-sex relationships, which Walker repeatedly asserted, were given second-class status by Prop. 8.
Walker also ruled that domestic partnerships did not satisfy the duty on California to let same-sex couples marry each other.
Anticipating Walker’s ruling, Pro-family advocates have already filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Walker’s decision from taking effect, until an appeal can be sorted out.