U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco has issued a landmark ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, overturning California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban as a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker has posted a thorough analysis of the 138-page decision (read the full text here).
Go send them a donation; they’ve worked hard to inform the public about
this historic legal battle, despite the other side’s efforts to keep
the proceedings secret.
Judge Walker ruled that there is no rational basis for the government to impose gender-based restrictions on the fundamental human right of marriage (boldface emphasis mine):
The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away
from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from
state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding
of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show
any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as
states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to
procreate in order to marry….Rather, the exclusion 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 right to marry has been historically and remains the right to
choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a
household….Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage
during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were
never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage….Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’
obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender
composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to
opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and
obligations of marriage under California law….Gender no longer
forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of
Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize
plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest
that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples
across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask
California to recognize their relationships for what they are:
(And that, folks, is why gay marriage is a feminist issue.)
The court concluded that the ban was purely motivated by anti-gay animosity: “Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California
Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to
Though the decision was immediately appealed and is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a trial judge’s factual findings are entitled to great deference on appeal. Thus, it’s significant that Judge Walker devoted 100+ pages to a thorough examination and rejection of the other side’s factual claims that gay marriage harmed children, straight marriages, and society as a whole.
Watch this space for video of tomorrow’s celebratory rally and kiss-in on the steps of Northampton City Hall. I’d better go iron my rainbow-striped pants.