Prop 8 struck down

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Wednesday Aug 4, 2010

A federal judge has ruled California's voter-approved ban on marriage for gays and lesbians is unconstitutional.

In his 136-page decision, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker concluded Proposition 8 failed to provide "any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for the denial of a marriage license". Furthermore, Vaughn found lawyers who represented Prop 8 supporters in court failed to effectively argue the measure was within constitutional bounds-including the belief a person can choose their sexual orientation.

"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," wrote the judge.

Vaughn also concluded domestic partnerships do not fulfill California's obligations under the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause.

"Domestic partnerships are distinct from marriage and do not provide the same social meaning as marriage," wrote Vaughn. "Domestic partnerships were created specifically so that California could offer same-sex couples rights and benefits while explicitly withholding marriage from same-sex couples."

The plaintiffs spoke immediately after the court posted Vaughn's ruling.

"We hope this decision brings us closer to the day when Americans no longer have to fight in court for the rights the Constitution says we all already have," said Jeff Zarrillo, who, along with his partner Paul Katami and Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and the city of San Francisco challenged Prop 8.

LGBT activists quickly praised Vaughn's ruling.

"This ruling is an historic milestone for millions of loving families, for all who have fought to realize the dream of equality under the law, and for our nation as a whole," said Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, agreed.

"After hearing extensive evidence in support of marriage equality, and essentially no defense of the discrimination wrought by Prop 8, Judge Walker reached the same conclusion we have always known to be true - the Constitution's protections are for all Americans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

Others also quickly weighed in.

"I am elated by the courage and wisdom demonstrated by District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in his decision to strike down Proposition 8, a law that unfairly targeted and harmed families across California," said lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

As EDGE previously reported, lawyers David Boies and Ted Olsen argued the measure stripped gays and lesbians of their constitutional rights. And conversely, Prop 8 supporters maintained nuptials for same-sex couples harms traditional marriage.

Closing arguments took place in San Francisco on June 16, but Vaughn's decision comes less than a month after a federal judge in Boston found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

"[Today's] decision reminds us that the freedom to marry is a long-established right belonging to all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans," said Mary L. Bonauto of Gays and Lesbians Advocates and Defenders. "Gay people, like all others, want the choice to join in marriage because we believe in the values of love, commitment, responsibility and caring for our families. While the case goes on, we hope people will come to see it is really about ensuring that all committed couples can take care of each other through the important bonds of marriage."

The case is expected to eventually go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


  • Birdy, 2010-08-04 17:25:38

    I’m so glad that this went in our favor... Now it’s on to round 2. Let’s keep the momentum going

  • patroy, 2010-08-04 17:30:50

    Finally common sense comes to our justice system

  • David Hollingsworth, 2010-08-05 16:14:05

    I’m so glad that this has been lifted, now it has given me a reason to live.

  • joey, 2010-08-05 16:35:48

    One small step but never the less a step forward!

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