Thursday, August 05, 2010

Federal Judge Overturns California Prop 8 Banning Gay Marriage

The Washington Post today carries the most in-depth article on Judge Vaughn R. Walker's decision on California's Proposition 8. In the Northern District of California Federal Court, the case of Perry, et al., v. Schwarzenegger, et al. (C 09-2292) has been decided for the plaintiffs, ruling that equal protection and due process under the federal Constitution require Judge Walker to find Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The Post provides the full text of the decision, (136 pages) which interestingly includes a discussion of Judge Walker's probing questions at oral argument. The reader can sense the judge's frustration with the proponent counsel's (those supporting Proposition 8) arguments, which is interesting. While the attorneys for the plaintiffs built a rich record with eight lay witnesses and nine expert witnesses, and using complex arguments based on civil rights cases of the past, such as Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia. Proponents presented only two expert witnesses, though they carefully cross-examined all plaintiff witnesses. The difference in presentation seemed to frustrate the judge, who was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed under the first President Bush. The judge ruled that Proposition 8, which in 2008 passed to amend the state constitution by 52% of the popular vote,

"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," (snip) Walker said opponents have until Friday to convince him that the decision should be stayed during the appeals process, or the marriages will resume. (snip) Walker said the decisions of voters must be respected. But because the right to marriage is fundamental, he wrote, "voters' determinations must find at least some support in evidence. This is especially so when those determinations enact into law classifications of persons."
The Post article is enriched with lots of links to sidebar articles, polls, and extras. I encourage you to go there. The article is extracted in lots of papers around the country but it's worth going right to the Post itself.

Selected Filings in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (thanks Michael Ginsborg & Scribd!) I think this includes all or nearly all of the briefs as well as innumerable motions and orders issued along the way.

Here is the ACLU amicus brief

This will now be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and eventually, we can be sure, to the Supreme Court. Probably it will meet the Massachusetts Eastern District Court decision, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, focused on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed the OPM to deny federal employees spousal benefits even if they were in same sex marriages in states which recognized such marriages. Gill was a much narrower decision than the Perry case.

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