Just an hour or so ago, Judge Vaughn Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued this 138 page decision ruling that Proposition 8 (or Art 1, Section 7.5 of the California Constitution) is unconstitutional. The decision is lengthy and says essentially all the right things in forcefully rejecting every argument against same sex marriage. You might be inclined to tl;dr it, but I suggest you don’t.
The court finds not only that the California Constitution violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, but also the Due Process Clause. The court, essentially, answers my question from a few years ago: can the constitution be unconstitutional? Yes, it can. Rejecting anti-gay-marriagers attempts to redefine the question, the court nicely puts the real issue at focus with this paragraph:
Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.
Viewed in light of that question – do gays and lesbians have the right to marry? – Prop 8 is analyzed as an infringement of a fundamental right and thus invokes strict scrutiny for a Due Process analysis. To overcome strict scrutiny, there needs to be a compelling governmental interest. An effort to show such an interest in same-sex marriage cases has always been doomed from the start, for there is none. Particularly telling, in this case, is that the State of California chose not to defend Prop 8. If the Government does not wish to articulate that compelling governmental interest, it can mean only one thing: one does not exist.
The analysis under the Equal Protection Clause is even more damning. The court doesn’t even bother determining whether gay couples are a suspect class deserving of strict scrutiny:
As presently explained in detail, the Equal Protection Clause renders Proposition 8 unconstitutional under any standard of review. Accordingly, the court need not address the question whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of review.
Page 121 onwards.
Look at these attempts to provide a rational basis for Prop 8:
Proponents put forth several rationales for Proposition 8, see Doc #605 at 12-15, which the court now examines in turn: (1) reserving marriage as a union between a man and a woman and excluding any other relationship from marriage; (2) proceeding with caution when implementing social changes; (3) promoting oppositesex parenting over same-sex parenting; (4) protecting the freedom of those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples; (5) treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples; and (6) any other conceivable interest.
The court debunks each one in detail, but this following paragraph can be applied as an appropriate response to each and every one:
The evidence shows that Proposition 8 does nothing other than eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. See FF 57, 62. Proposition 8 is not rationally related to an interest in protecting the rights of those opposed to same-sex couples because, as a matter of law, Proposition 8 does not affect the rights of those opposed to homosexuality or to marriage for couples of the same sex.
That’s enough quoting. Go read the decision for yourself and have a celebratory drink with me, just as I did two years ago, when gay marriage was legalized here in CT, as we chew on this powerful statement:
That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, 319 US 624, 638 (1943)
But really, Judge Walker didn’t need to write that long decision. All he needed to do was print this and sign it: