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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)

Mr. "Sanity" says that God's design for marriage is "Men and women". First, she has no way to know that. Second, that idea flies in the face of the existence of homosexuals -- presumably an idea approved by God, or how could they exist?

Mr. "Sugahbear" writes, "A measure was put on the ballet, the people voted, but here comes a judge to say no. It seems to me that voting is just a waste of time." First, this conclusion is true only if you go vote for something that's obviously unConstitutional -- which evidently Sugahbear did. Second, the judge didn't just "say no." The judge wrote, with a complete analysis that Sugahbear does not want to read or understand, that for two separate independent reasons, Prop. 8 was contrary to the Constitution adopted by our founding fathers. I'm not homosexual, but I read what the judge wrote and it makes complete sense to me.

Jill warns that "gay bashers will bash." Maybe the gay bashers will come to realize that their time has gone, and they ought to siddown and have a little quiet contemplation.

Thanks for listening!

The constitution won today. America haters will lose the battle they want to fight over the 14th Amendment, too.

finally some good news!

That's the right decision, judge. I'd say the same if 8's proponents had actually mounted a defense, but they didn't, so it's doubly true. They knew that the best they have is what we see here in these very comments. People who think Democracy means if they're in the majority, they can use government to tell others how to live. People who think that liberal tactic is OK if you merely call yourself a conservative. People who forget that God said to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and focus on His kingdom ABOVE. People who are just scared of change.

Of course, 8's proponents are probably also shrewdly saving their resources for the inevitable US Supreme Court battle. I hope that's held against them; let the appeals begin!

Straight Canada (well, some of us) applauds. I'm sure all of Gay Canada does too. Glad to see it.

I still fail to understand why some people believe the human rights should be granted by popular vote. This just leads to one group keeping rights from others. Of course voting matters, but one group voting to deny things from another group is exactly why we have courts.

I find it funny that a Dubya appointed judge made this ruling and he's being slammed by the opposition as incompetent or corrupt. That's really hilarious. If one of Dubya's appointees did it... maybe you should reflect on that.

Escpecially since those that were married before Prop 8 ended up being a "special" group; married gays and lesbians. While others who didn't effectively became second class. You can't do that. Thankfully Prop 8 didn't annul marriages. That would have been an even worse travesty.

Kudo's to California and you can smile again Mr. Takei.

YES!!!!!!!!! keep your religion and judgement out of my PERSONAL LIFE!!!! and no, allowing TWO ADULTS capable of making their own decisions DOES NOT entail the following:
1. to wed children: because children are minors, they are not adults that can wed. and that's statutory rape.
2. to wed animals: because as of now, animals are still unable to write legible signatures on their marriage certificates (LOL!)
3. to wed multiple partners because obviously 3>2.
Justice prevails, now to move up the courts!!!

Dear People of California:
How do you like having my spit all over your face?
Judge Walker

You already have EQUAL RIGHTS! You must follow the same rules as heteros when it comes to marriage! Oh wait... You want to change it!? Ahhhh....

So far 2 of 4 comments on here mention God and morals...2 things this country was definitely NOT founded on according to true documented history. This country was founded on freedon and equality for all...meanwhile these same men had slaves and wives with even less rights. It's up to progressive people...not the fearful and repressed to fight for what's right, not what's most comfortable. I challenge any opposer to present FACTS to oppose same sex marriage...not subjective opinions based on religious, "moral", or personal preferences. What negative effects has a loving same sex couple honestly had on a straight couple? I'm in a hetero marriage, and have never been effected negatively. There is too much hate being thrown around in our country. If God has a problem with it...let him deal with it and mind your own business.

I think most of the idiots here forget that while yes, the majority won in favor of Prop 8, a lot of people voted against it and rightfully so. I voted against it so does that mean that the pro votes are worth more than mine? Anyone with an ounce of sense in their body will agree that Vaughan's verdict has a clear justification on why Prop 8 needed to be overturned.

And for the religious idiots...really? Marriage is between a man and a woman? It's that line of thinking that will keep us in the dark age.

@michael g - the judge was a conservative, the lawyer was a conservative. Try again.

to the people who are upset about this...what do you have against love? seriously? besides that, the people should NOT be allowed to vote on discrimination/segregation. read the 14th amendment again people!!!! this is a great and historic day!!!!

Could care less, BUT, I had to go vote and my opinion registered equal to what the margin for Obama to get elected, and apparently the vote was meaningless. When does my vote count.

Allow me to be the first to congratulate the American Left, the News Media and the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender crowd for their abundant disregard for the Will of The People. For their subversion of the Rule of Law, the morality of society and their collective repudiation of the Democratic process. You've learn your lessons well from Mr. Al Gore, "If you can't beat them in the ballot box or on the field of fair play and ideas, find a Liberal judge to throw out the results...".

Posted by: michael g | August 04, 2010 at 02:04 PM


Don't you religious cranks ever sniff reality at all?

It's always the "liberal media" or "liberal judges" or liberal "this and that" It's never your own hate and exclusionary views is it?

First of all the judge was appointed by George HW Bush. He's hardly liberal.

Secondly, civil rights of a minority group cannot be taken away by tyranny of a majority group.

Gays getting married doesn't impede nor intrude on YOUR ability to marry or partner with whomever you like, nor does it infringe or intrude upon your rights. Shame you're too uneducated and intolerant to extend the same courtesy to others

This isn't an issue of the minority v. the majority, kids. The Constitution doesn't say "whichever side has the most votes automatically wins." We aren't an outright democracy. The Constitution specifically has laws in place to keep the tyranny of the majority from overcoming what is right. No matter what side you're on, you're going to have to realize sooner or later that this type of discrimination isn't right.

Many comments on here about "our vote means nothing". There never should have been a vote. Since when are the rights of another human being voted upon? Imagine if there had been a vote to allow interatial marriage. How do you think that would have turned out? Imagine if there had been a vote on doing away with slavery. How do you think that would have turned out?

We don't live in a democracy, we live in a constitutional republic. Simply because a majority of people vote in bigoted unconstitutional ways does not mean the law should stand. This decision is not just a triumph for equality, but also a triumph for the rule of law.

Ironic that most of those who support Prop h8 also express knee-jerk reactions against any limitations placed on big business by our government. Keep the government out of our marketplace, but by all means let them into our bedrooms.

The people of california vote means nothing because everyone went and voted on the proposition and it passed . What a sad world we live in so if the proposition would not have passed and people got in an uproar would they have done the same thing and over turned it . liberal jackasses go back in the closet remember one thing god CREATED ADAM AND EVE NOT ADAM AND STEVE !

Civil rights should have never been voted on by the people of the state in the first place. Civil rights are inharent to all people regardless of what the pop votes.

Homosexuality is a part of human nature and has been since there have been people. If you can't recognize history and admit that then you are just ignorant.

Next thing we will be say two stupid people cant get married or two obese people, whats the difference?

Homosexuality is defined by sex. Heterosexuality is defined by God. Period

I love all the "eat it hate-mongers" comments. Ummm, did you see the gays all being so loving and tolerant after it passed the first time?

PS - All the "polygamy/incest/bestiality/slippery slope" people: Gay people want EQUAL rights. We aren't interested in SEPARATE or OTHER rights. Therefore, we want the right to marry a partner who is eligible and lawful in every way - not our cousin/sister/mother, not 3 or 4 different partners, not our dogs, not any of that. We just want the SAME rights YOU have.

Just because "the people" vote for something, doesn't mean it is right. Every law must fall within the bounds of the constitution. Let us not forget the law that did not allow women to vote, the law that required segregation, and many others. These laws were unconstitutional and in each case it took a brave judge to go against the will of "the people" and strike the laws down. Prop 8 is unconstitutional and in 20 years we will all be looking back and wondering how such a flagrantly discriminatory law could have passed in the first place.

Liberty is, always and forever WILL BE:

Freedom from government restriction and control.

You lobbyist close-minded bible thumping Christian types will NEVER see that. All the majority of you see is "OMG GAY MARRIAGE EQUALS DOWNFALL OF MAN! REPENT REPENT!"

To quote the Judge himself : "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."

Limiting a specific groups right to marry and have the same benefits as anothers is RESTRICTION appointed by the GOVERNMENT. Whether the majority of people think it's wrong or not has nothing to do with the fact that Prop. 8 was an unconstitutional waste of paper. It went to court and got overturned. You want it back? Appeal it yourself.

Congratulations to all the gay/lesbian/transgenders out there! Im glad that people are finally starting to see that equality really IS everything.


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