A California court has ruled that a controversial California measure banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.
The much awaited ruling on Proposition 8 was announced at 3:45 p.m. Pacific Daylight. California officials announced that the full decision would be available on the state court’s website.
Titled Perry et all v. Schwarzenegger, the suit against the 2008 referendum, which re-banned gay marriage in California, was brought by a gay and a lesbian couple and the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The case was heard in January and closing arguments in July by Judge Vaughn Walker, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Today, Walker ruled that Proposition 8 violated both the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause as well as its due process clause.
Walker 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.”
“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,” he continued.
Walker also noted that Proposition 8 did not “advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license” and that the referendum not only enshrined discrimination in California’s constitution, but went against the state constitution’s guarantee of equality for all citizens.
Walker was appointed by Pres. George H.W. Bush and is widely considered to be a conservative judge with Libertarian leanings.
Walker, however, did not rule that gay marriages could begin immediately. The judge has issued a two-day stay on the ruling.
Yes on 8, the organization behind the push to pass Proposition 8, has already filed for an appeal. The case is expected to go to the state’s appelate court and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Impromptu rallies centered around the decision were announced yesterday. Salt Lake City’s gathering will be held tonight from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at the Utah State Capitol.
“Utah’s LGBT community will be out in force tonight,” organizer and local activist Eric Ethington wrote on the rally’s Facebook invite. “Bring your signs, bring your chants and let’s remind Utah that WE ARE STILL HERE!”
Shortly after the decision’s anouncement, members of Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community took to Facebook, expressing joy.
“Happy tears. it’s nice to hear the staff here at the center have a reason to celebrate … even if it’s a bit odd with lots of cameras in our faces,” wrote Marina Gomberg, Director of Development and Marketing at the Utah Pride Center.
“TODAY is a DAY of Great HOPE! AND NOW OUR HOPE BECOMES CELEBRATION.” Sister Dottie S. Dixon, the drag persona of actor Charles Lynn Frost, wrote on her Facebook. “But our fight must remain valiant, and we must remain a united force for fairness, justice, LOVE and Equality.”
“Lots of tears here,” ABC Channel 4 reporter Chris Vanocur wrote on Twitter shortly after the ruling, reporting from the Utah Pride Center where dozens had gathered to watch live coverage of the ruling. “As one person just said to me on camera …’Finally, we have something to celebrate.'”
“Equality Utah has always believed that the Constitution covers LGBT people and we are thrilled to see that Judge Walker has ruled in a way that supports this view,” agreed Brandie Balken, executive director of the statewide gay and transgender rights group.. “As an organization, we support full equality for LGBT people including the right to marry, and while this decision does not directly impact law in the state of Utah, it is, indeed, a day to celebrate.”
Not all queer Utahns were so enthusiastic.
“I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but this #Prop8 ruling, to me, doesn’t seem like a big deal. Wake me up when the Appeals court rules,” wrote City Weekly Jesse Fruhwirth on his Twitter account.
“That this judge overturned makes no difference to the higher courts,” he continued a few minutes later. “It’s less important than winning the coin toss at the Super Bowl.’
The Utah-based LDS Church released a statement roughly an hour after the ruling condeming Walker’s decision. The church was one of the leading forces behind the move to pass Proposition 8 two years ago.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision,” the statement read. ” California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree. Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.
“We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution — marriage.
“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”
The full ruling can be read here.