In a landmark victory for equality and LGBT rights, Chief United States District Judge Vaughn Walker has overturned Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriage in California. The judge ruled the law is unconstitutional (PDF) under the due-process and equal-protection clauses "because it denies ... fundamental rights without a legitimate reason."
Writing in the 138-page decision on Perry v Schwarzenegger, Judge Vaughn Walker concluded:
"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."
And the remedies:
"Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result, see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings. Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8."
The final word from the federal judge first appointed by Ronald Reagan: "A private moral view that same sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation."
The landmark case was brought by superstar attorneys Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides of the famous Bush v Gore. The case was filed last year on behalf of a gay male couple in Burbank and a lesbian Berkeley couple who were denied marriage licenses.
The ruling has already been appealed by the anti-gay side and will almost certainly be litigated to the Supreme Court. But today is a tremendous day for equality.
UPDATE: Walker has issued a stay, i.e. same-sex couples cannot get married right now.