U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that the California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional, in a case that will almost certainly go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is "unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses." The court, therefore, "orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement." Two key sentences from the ruling:
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.
That's what history sounds like.
Update: Good As You has a PDF of the decision.
The ruling was a win for lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, an unlikely pair who faced off against one another during the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. (Olson represented George W. Bush and Boies represented Al Gore.)
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the ruling, saying it "affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves."
Even before the ruling was released, lawyers for the opposing side filed a motion to stay the judge's ruling pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
But opponents of the ban weren't wasting any time. The San Francisco Appeal reported "an absolute scrum at the City Clerk's office, where Vanessa Judipli and Maria Ydril have been issued a marriage license," with an official on hand to marry the two women before any stay can go into effect.
Here's the full conclusion by Judge Walker:
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 full remedies ruled:
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.