I haven’t even begun to dig into Judge Walker’s 138‐page (!) opinion that strikes down Proposition 8 on both due process and equal protection grounds, but here are three key excerpts. First, the conclusion that government lacks a “rational basis” for preventing same‐sex couples from marrying:
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.
Then the equal protection conclusion:
Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
And finally the due process conclusion:
As explained in detail in the equal protection analysis, Proposition 8 cannot withstand rational basis review. Still less can Proposition 8 survive the strict scrutiny required by plaintiffs’ due process claim. The minimal evidentiary presentation made by proponents does not meet the heavy burden of production necessary to show that Proposition 8 is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. Proposition 8 cannot, therefore, withstand strict scrutiny. Moreover, proponents do not assert that the availability of domestic partnerships satisfies plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry; proponents stipulated that “[t]here is a significant symbolic disparity between domestic partnership and marriage.” [citation omitted] Accordingly, Proposition 8 violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In short, the court found none of the government’s asserted interests — including tradition, moving slowly on social change, and promoting different‐sex parenting — to be “legitimate.” This is obviously a big deal and will be appealed — and no gay marriages will be allowed until the appellate process will have run its course (most likely up to the Supreme Court). Currently, same‐sex couples can only legally wed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Cato’s chairman Bob Levy, also co‐chair of the advisory board to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (which sponsored the suit) had this to say:
The principle of equality before the law transcends the left‐right divide that so often defines issues in this country. Today, people from across that divide came together to fight a law that cut to the very core of our nation’s character. Prop. 8 attempted to deny people an indispensable right vested in all Americans. This Judge and this Court bravely confronted wrongful discrimination and came down on the right side – defending and enforcing equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution.
I too think this was the correct decision — reserving, of course, the right to criticize parts once I’ve done more than skim it — though I fear it will poison our politics in a way not seen from a legal decision since Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade is not what today’s ruling should be compared to, however — both because this was only one district judge and because Roe v. Wade was a tortured fabrication of constitutional law that no legitimate constitutional scholar really defends (not even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). I would liken it more to one more step in the civil rights movement, giving all Americans equality under the law. If you want a court case to compare it to, try Loving v. Virginia (which struck down bans on interracial marriage).
I should also add that this all could have been averted if government just got out of the marriage business entirely: have civil unions for whoever wants them — which would be a contractual basket of rights not unlike business partnerships — and let religious and other private institutions confer whatever sacraments they want. If the state provides the institution of marriage, however, it has to provide it to all people.