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Judge strikes down Prop. 8, allows gay marriage in California [Updated]

Prop 8 supporters Nadia Chayka (2-L) and her fiance Luke Otterstad (3-L) stand in between Prop 8 opponents Billy Radford (R) and Ron Weaver (L) as they stand outside of the Philip Burton Federal building in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
A federal judge in San Francisco decided today that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, striking down Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure that banned same-sex unions.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

[Updated at 1:54 p.m.: "Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment," the judge wrote. "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."

Vaughn added: "Plaintiffs seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and plaintiffs’ relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States.“

Ultimately, the judge concluded that 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 Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”]

[Updated at 2:28 p.m.: Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised the judge's decision. "Because a judge had the courage to stand up for the constitution of the United States, prop 8 has been overturned!" the mayor wrote on Twitter.

“This ruling marks a victory for loving, committed couples who want nothing more than the same rights and security as other families,” added Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, minutes after Walker’s ruling was released. “From the start, this has been about basic fairness.”

Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund who fought to uphold Prop 8 in Walker’s court, vowed to appeal, saying “We’re obviously disappointed that the judge did not uphold the will of over 7 million Californians who made a decision in a free and fair democratic process.”]

Walker, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, heard 16 witnesses summoned by opponents of Proposition 8 and two called by proponents during a 2½-week trial in January.

Walker’s historic ruling in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger relied heavily on the testimony he heard at trial. His ruling listed both factual findings and his conclusions about the law.

Voters approved the ban by a 52.3% margin six months after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was permitted under the state Constitution.

The state high court later upheld Proposition 8 as a valid amendment to the state Constitution.

An estimated 18,000 same-sex couples married in California during the months that it was legal, and the state continues to recognize those marriages.

The federal challenge was filed on behalf of a gay couple in Southern California and a lesbian couple in Berkeley. They are being represented by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, a conservative, and noted litigator David Boies, who squared off against Olson in Bush vs. Gore.

A Los Angeles-based group formed to fight Proposition 8 has been financing the litigation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown refused to defend Proposition 8, prodding the sponsors of the initiative to hire a legal team experienced in U.S. Supreme Court litigation.

Backers of Proposition 8 contended that the legal burden was on the challengers to prove there was no rational justification for voting for the measure. They cited as rational a view that children fare best with both a father and a mother.

But defense witnesses conceded in cross-examination that studies show children reared from birth by same-sex couples fared as well as those born to opposite-sex parents and that marriage would benefit the families of gays and lesbians.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

Photo: Proposition 8 supporters Nadia Chayka and her fiance Luke Otterstad stand in between Proposition 8 opponents Billy Radford, right, and Ron Weaver, left, outside of the Philip Burton Federal building in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (672)

Haters will hate.

For those who are spouting their religous beliefs: what happened to love thy neighbor? And letting God be the Judge, instead assuming you know His will? Your decision to hate seems awfully presumptuous.

Congrats to Walker for recognizing that this is not just a moral issue within religious communities but an issue of inequality in ALL our communities. It's a step forward.

California is a leader once again!

Good decision!

Heaven help us all

As it should have happened!

What kind of money will the LDS Church throw at this now?


i agree, what was the purpose of voting for..........


Great News!!!!! So can I plan my wedding now or do I wait until the Supreme Court rules that even the Federal Government has to accept gay marriages and we can then all have the same EQUAL rights?

voyager - do yourself a favor and google the term "argumentum ad populum".

What a surprise, our world is going by way of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is truly a victory for fairness and for what is right and just. Some straight people will never get it because they cannot see beyond themselves. They hide behind their "religious" morals, which they mold to fit they're own needs and thoughts, and which isn't based on anything tangible.

What's the point of voting, if some judge is just going to tear up your ballot. I don't condemd or approve people's
lifestyles, just the fact that some judge say's your vote
doesn't count.

This is what is wrong with the cult of Liberalism that has hijacked the the United States. Homosexuals could have had ALL the priviledges and rights of marriage - WITHOUT altering the legal term "marriage" - but that was not good enough for them.

This has little if anything to do with extending rights to homosexuals. It has to do with 1) Unraveling the fabric of American society - one strand at a time, 2) Destroying the meaning of a legal term that crosses nearly all religious, national, and culteral borders - and has done so for thousands of years.

If the Extreme-Left can alter the meaning of this legal term - they can change the meaning of ALL legal terms. Then we become a nation without finite laws. That the tradition, history, and legal meaning of marriage that has stood practically since the beginning of recorded time - can be struck down by ONE activist judge - is a travesty and a shame upon this great nation.

@Sanity And you know God exists - how? Because an ancient book of fairytales told you so? Or are you yet another brainwashed lemming that unquestioningly takes as gospel the teachings of the same organization that prosecuted Galileo as a heretic?

WOOOHOOO - a win for love and equality!!

To Michael G: may you one day come to realize that the American Left, the News Media, and the Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender "crowd" are part of that same American people whose "will" you claim to uphold by denying equality to those whose values are not your own. Welcome to Constitutionality! As Congresswoman Pat Schroeder once asked, "what part of ALL are you not understanding?"

aww come on!! First you take away my system of slavery and now you take away my marriage. When will the will of the people prevail. It's not like we don't know any better.

People, let's get rid of the simplistic viewpoints. No one's getting married to their pets, no one's going to marry more than one partner.

And if you think you should be married to more than one woman? Won't, can't happen-even if you are Mormon. Part of the reason Utah is part of the union.

The defendants witnesses even admitted that there really is no difference when children are raised by people of the same sex or opposite sex.

How about we worry about real problems that REALLY do affect us in our daily lives?

It is the duty of the courts and a democracy to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the masses. No one's civil rights should ever be put to vote, yet that's exactly what Prop 8 did.

Just because you don't like gays, doesn't mean you should have a say as to their CIVIL RIGHTS. Justice prevailks and the haters can keep drinking their hatorade every Sunday in Church.

@Michael G, it was the work of the Supreme Court that helped give African-Americans and other minorities equal rights in the '60s. We have this system to protect minorities from mob rule. Sometimes the voters are tyranny themselves


Good to know Charles Manson and other straight criminals no longer have marriage rights that law abiding gay couples did not.

Pretty sick when a society allows criminals special marriage rights that a large segment of the population is denied.

After all, Jesus said nothing about gay people yet said A LOT about criminals. It's even in the Ten Commandments (which also does not mention gay people).

Looks like God won this one!

God does not distinguish between the love of a man and woman and same sex partners. This is a great day against the forces of hatred, fear and insecurity.

This proves that the American people no longer have a voice in this country. They voted 52% against Prop 8 yet it was successfully appealed and overturned. Why continue to vote? It's obvious from this ruling that it's something the government allows us to do to make us think it makes a difference. We have no choice anymore. We live in a Communist state thanks to our Kenyan born dictator and Zionist liberals.

This is no longer my country. I renounce my citizenship.

Some here are saying that voting should not be overturned. How about we vote on something like let say Churches are no longer tax exempt. This would serve a purpose in the State by raising Tax revenue and would benefit all. I am gay and would not support this but how many would 51%, 55%????????

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