Goodbye, Prop 8?
Gay activists might as well be dancing in the streets this week in California. After the state ruled that Prop 8, the very heated and much-debated ban on same-sex marriage in The Golden State, violates the Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights clauses, a panel of three judges seems unlikely to toss out the ruling, according to The Los Angeles Times. Even though voters supported Prop 8 at the polls, after a major push by anti-gay activists both in state and out, it’s the judges that have decided the sometimes tumultuous fate of marriage equality – and they seem to be sticking to it even after critics argued that Judge Vaughn Walker has been in a same-sex relationship for a decade.
“Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect,” said Judge Walker in his almost 140-page ruling last year. “Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbian are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve full recognition of society.”
A three-judge panel met this week to discuss last year’s ruling and whether video tapes of the trial should be unsealed – overturning Walker’s ruling is seeming less and less likely. And for couples who have married in the state prior to Prop 8, this is definitely good news. It could also set a precedent in other states that seek to use the problem of discrimination as the basis for legalizing same-sex marriage.
This decision, coupled with the Obama administration’s refusal to support DOMA on the basis that it, too, is unconstitutional, could bode very well for marriage equality proponents around the country if it sticks. The judge further explained his decision based on sexual orientation being fundamental to a person’s identity, and lacking evidence to suggest one chooses this orientation.
He also says that equal rights are lacking in civil unions and other partnerships that seek to replace marriage among gays and lesbians. “The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships,” he said. “Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.