Yesterday, United States District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a landmark ruling, overturned Proposition 8, the voter-enacted amendment to the California Consitution that declared that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” From the state capitol (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised Judge Walker’s ruling) to the streets of San Francisco, where thousands of marriages between same-sex couples were performed in 2004 and again in 2008, many Californians celebrated the decision, even as proponents of Prop 8 prepared an appeal.
I reviewed the ruling, available here, and wanted to share some key quotes from the ruling that helped me form a better understanding of the entire issue of gay marriage.
The following four quotes effectively illuminate the rationale behind the decision to overturn Prop 8 because it denies equal protection and due process to people based on sexual orientation:
- California’s obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to “mandate [its] own moral code.”
- That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
- Tradition alone cannot form a rational basis for a law. The “ancient lineage” of a classification does not make it rational.
- “[T]he Constitution cannot control [private biases] but neither can it tolerate them.”
The following snippets illustrate the irrelevance and insidiousness of the attempt to define marriage as between a man and a woman:
- The exclusion [of same-sex couples from marriage] exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.
- 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.
- The campaign relied heavily on negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians and focused on protecting children from inchoate threats vaguely associated with gays and lesbians. The evidence shows that Proposition 8 played on a fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual. The evidence at trial shows those fears to be completely unfounded.
- The evidence shows beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes.
And in conclusion:
- 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 California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and 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.
The latest controversy over the Prop 8 ruling is that Judge Walker is openly gay and thus could not have been objective in his verdict. To anyone who questions Judge Walker’s objectivity, I would ask you to read the ruling and observe – objectively – his findings.
The judge is passionate about upholding the principles of equality and nondiscrimination that are central to the California Constitution. His sexual orientation may play a role in the degree of his passion, but to suggest that it impairs his judgment is to ignore both the evidence and the intelligence, profound thoughtfulness, and historical perspective with which Judge Walker made his decision.