In a long-awaited ruling, Judge Vaughn Walker says the ban on same-sex marriage violates constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The decision is expected to reach the Supreme Court
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
Reporting from San Francisco and Los Angeles —The federal judge who overturned Proposition 8 Wednesday said the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage was based on moral disapproval of gay marriage and ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a 136-page ruling, said California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions".
"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote. The ruling struck down Proposition 8 as a violation of federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
Walker cited extensive trial evidence to support his finding that there was not even a rational basis for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage. Higher courts defer to trial judges on issues of fact, but still could determine that Walker was wrong on the law.
Walker has temporarily stayed his order until Friday, giving Prop. 8 backers time to file appeals and seek a long-term stay. The decision would appear to delay any resumption of gay marriage in the state. Officials in L.A. County and West Hollywood said they were studying the ruling before deciding whether to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses again.
Supporters of the marriage ban vowed an immediate appeal.
Austin R. Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund who fought to uphold Proposition 8 in Walker's court, said they would appeal. "We're obviously disappointed that the judge did not uphold the will of over 7 million Californians who made a decision in a free and fair democratic process".
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the ruling.
"For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves," the governor said. "At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future, and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity".
He said the ruling was "by no means California's first milestone, nor our last, on America's road to equality and freedom for all people". Los Angeles Times