Federal Judge: Prop 8 Unconstitutional

A statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell

Today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. In his ruling, Judge Walker states: “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. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

On May 22, 2009, two same-sex couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to prohibit marriage by same-sex couples. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the ACLU, and Lambda Legal filed two friend-of-the-court briefs in the case supporting the argument that Proposition 8 violates the federal Constitution.

A Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s decision affirms that the law cannot treat people differently based on their sexual orientation and that a majority cannot strip a minority group of its fundamental freedoms at the ballot box. Judge Walker ruled that there truly is no substance to the arguments of those who would deny equality to same-sex couples. This is another landmark victory for same-sex couples and their families who simply want the dignity and security of having the same freedom to marry as others, as well as for all Americans who believe in our nation’s bedrock principle of fairness. We are thrilled that the court has upheld the rights of liberty and equality enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs, represented by some of the most skilled attorneys in the country, laid out a well-crafted, meticulous case, backed by the most respected historians, psychologists, economists, and political scientists who study marriage, sexual orientation, and child development. Using the Prop 8 proponents’ own outrageous and inflammatory words, ads, and emails, the plaintiffs powerfully demonstrated that Prop 8 was a direct product of hostility, fear-mongering, and demonization of lesbians and gay men. And through the deeply moving testimony of the plaintiffs and other members of our community, they proved beyond question that denying same-sex couples the right to marry causes great harm to LGBT people and their children.

Since 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that Hawaii’s marriage ban violated the Hawaii Constitution, four state supreme courts have struck down laws barring same-sex couples from marrying, two state supreme courts have held that same-sex couples must be given all of the material rights and benefits of marriage, and more than a dozen state legislatures have enacted laws either permitting same-sex couples to marry or providing them with some or most of the benefits of marriage as a step toward marriage equality itself. Last month, a federal court in Massachusetts held that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminatorily denies legally married same-sex couples all federal protections and programs, has no rational basis. Today’s ruling by Judge Walker powerfully confirms this growing consensus that same-sex couples deserve basic fairness.”

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