Statements from LGBT Caucus Members in Response to the U.S. District Court’s Decision on Proposition 8

August 4, 2010

from the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus

Members of the California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus issued the following statements in response to the decision issued today by Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in the case entitled Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, invalidating Proposition 8, the discriminatory state constitutional amendment that banned marriage for same-sex couples:

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D – San Francisco), Chair:

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has issued a powerful, thoughtful, and wellreasoned decision. In overturning Proposition 8, this Court fulfilled its legacy as a champion for equality. The Court recognized that it is unconstitutional to put a minority’s rights up for a popular vote. Today’s decision reaffirmed our U.S. Constitution’s promise of equality for all.”

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles):

Judge Walker’s thoughtful, eloquent decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is a powerful validation of our nation’s tradition of full equality in the eyes of the law. This is a decision which reaffirms the principles and ideals enshrined in our Constitution, and only serves to underscore the fact that recognition of full equality for LGBT Americans is simply at matter of time.

I also want to express my congratulations to the legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson, as well as Therese Stewart and Dennis Herrera representing the City and County of San Francisco for their brilliant, inspiring and historic arguments in this case. They have won a major victory on behalf of our Constitution and LGBT Americans everywhere.

Senator Christine Kehoe (D – San Diego):

I applaud Judge Walker’s ruling on behalf of equality today for all loving and committed couples in California. These men and women deserve the right to marry and this decision reinforces that our society is a fair and just place. I hope the community celebrates today’s victory and remains vigilant in the pursuit of civil rights for all Californians.

Senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco):

“Today’s decision is a landmark victory for California and all caring couples who wish to make lifelong commitments to one another through marriage. Triumphantly we send the resounding message to the world that all people are treated equally under the laws of our nation. This decision not only upholds the constitutional right to marry for same-sex
couples, but also affirms our fundamental rights as human beings, which for so long have been denied. The decision underscores the respect, dignity and validation which all loving couples deserve.

As we celebrate today’s decision, we must never forget how far we have come, or the courageous leaders upon whose shoulders we stand. They had certainly envisioned this day, but did not live to see it. It is through their courageous blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that we found our victory.

In the words of the Declaration of Independence, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

The California Legislative LGBT Caucus was formed in June 2002. The Caucus’ role is to present a forum for the California Legislature to discuss issues that affect lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Californians and to further the goal of equality and justice for all Californians. Formation of the LGBT Caucus made California the first state in the
country to recognize an official caucus of openly-LGBT state legislators.

NCLR Analysis: Perry v. Schwarzenegger Ruling

August 4, 2010

Shannon Minter, Esq. and Chris Stoll, Esq. | cross-posted from Pam’s House Blend

Today’s decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is nothing short of a grand slam legal victory for LGBT people. In a comprehensive and crystal clear opinion, Judge Walker held that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Judge Walker reached this conclusion for two reasons: because Proposition 8 denies individuals the fundamental right to marry without a compelling reason to do so, violating the Due Process clause of the federal constitution, and because it violates the Equal Protection clause by discriminating based on sex and sexual orientation.

Under both the Due Process clause and the Equal Protection clause, whether a law is constitutional comes down to whether the state has a good enough reason for it. So, the core of Judge Walker’s opinion today is his factual findings – the determinations he made based on the evidence presented to him at trial. Judge Walker’s methodical opinion relies on the impressive and authoritative trial testimony of the Perry plaintiffs and their expert witnesses to conclusively refute every argument ever advanced against permitting same-sex couples to marry.

Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 and laws like it cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny even under the most forgiving legal standard, the “rational basis” test. But he also held that because it discriminates based on sexual orientation, Proposition 8 should be evaluated under the “strict scrutiny” standard – the highest level of constitutional scrutiny, which applies to laws that discriminate on the basis of race. Discussing the way that the law discriminates based on both sex and sexual orientation, he explained that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is “an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage.” And “[t]hat time has passed.”

The court has temporarily stayed the ruling, meaning that it will not go into effect immediately – so same-sex couples are not yet able to actually marry in California as of today. The defenders of Proposition 8 have asked that the ruling not go into effect until they have finished appealing it (which could take 2-4 years), and the temporary stay will last until Judge Walker decides whether to grant their request. We can also expect that the proponents will file an appeal of the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals some time soon. Today’s decision only addressed California’s Proposition 8, not federal law, or any other state laws, although much of Judge Walker’s reasoning would also apply to other laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying or otherwise discriminate against LGBT people.

Judge Walker deserves a great deal of credit for sifting through the mountains of evidence presented at trial and for analyzing it so thoroughly. And the legal team representing the plaintiffs did a phenomenal job of presenting that evidence and making this day possible. It is deeply gratifying to see such a clear, detailed and comprehensive decision making the ultimately simple point that a majority of voters can’t trample the rights of LGBT people just because they have been sold a lie that we, and our relationships, are morally inferior. As Judge Walker wrote, “conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough.” Today is a great day for our community.

Federal Judge: Prop 8 Unconstitutional

August 4, 2010

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.”

A Landmark Victory for Justice and Our Families

August 4, 2010

Well, it’s official, Prop. 8 is history. Hopefully, for good. Today U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws.

Given the roller coaster we have all been through with marriage in California and Prop 8, it is hard to put in words what this victory means. It is surely among the most personal and profound wins for our community. Judge Walker’s ruling eviscerates the baseless and empty arguments of our opponents. Walker found that there was simply no credible, rational, believable, or persuasive reason to take the right to marry away from same-sex couples. Our opponents had a team of very fine lawyers, and at the end of the trial, the evidence they presented in support of Prop 8 made abundantly clear that other than discomfort or hostility, there is no justifiable basis for excluding us from the same right to marry that’s enjoyed by every other couple in this country. This groundbreaking decision upholds the rights of liberty and equality that are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and affirms that the law cannot treat people differently based on who they love and that a majority cannot strip a minority group of its fundamental freedoms at the ballot box. But more than that, the ruling elevates the central reason same-sex couples wish to marry, because we are in love with a person special to us and with whom we want to share our lives, just like everyone else. So at its most basic, today’s victory is about humanity, dignity, and love. It is hard to accept that there is such fierce opposition to that.

But there clearly is, and while we should savor today’s victory, this is just another step in our journey to full justice and dignity for our lives and our choices—including the freedom to choose whether and whom to marry. We must continue to reach out and have conversations about our families and our lives with our friends, our loved ones, our allies. By sharing our stories, we win the hearts and minds of others who may not share our views, and create a world where all families are valued and respected as fully equal.

We need to show the federal courts that America is ready for LGBT people to marry. Everyone has a part to play in making that happen. Get involved in your own community. Engage your friends, co-workers, and family in conversations about what full equality means to you and your family. Contact your statewide LGBT groups to find out what you can do to advance marriage equality where you live. This is a victory we must preserve and keep. But you can wait until tomorrow to do that. For today, just be grateful, proud, and happy.


Lifting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Won’t Threaten Religious Freedom

August 4, 2010

letter to the editor, USA Today

Commentary writer Daniel Blomberg, in the piece “If gays serve openly, will chaplains suffer? Yes. Religious liberty is in real jeopardy,” raises needless fears based on a flawed understanding of the policies that govern the military chaplaincy (On Religion, The Forum, July 12). These policies are designed to preserve and protect the free exercise of religion in the military and would remain in effect after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT).

No Roman Catholic, fundamentalist Christian or Orthodox Jewish chaplain would have to change her or his beliefs about homosexuality. If any gay or lesbian servicemembers went to one of these chaplains, they would still receive the counseling against homosexuality they have always received. What they wouldn’t receive is a discharge from their military service for being gay and speaking about it.

Presumably, these same chaplains have counseled soldiers against getting an abortion, even though it is perfectly legal to do so. Speaking against homosexuality is what gay and lesbian soldiers have come to expect from these brands of religious leaders. Within each chaplain’s congregation, he or she will continue to be free to preach according to the tenets of his or her own faith. That will not change.

The separation of church and state is safe under DADT. What is not safe is the employment of our gay and lesbian service men and women who are simply seeking the right to enjoy the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that they are willing to risk their lives defending.

Blomberg laments the “subtle pressure to keep their opposition silent” that chaplains against change would endure, but what about the less-than-subtle pressure long endured by those chaplains who oppose the DADT policy?

If chaplains can operate effectively in a war zone, surely they can withstand some subtle pressure to accept all soldiers as the children of God they were created to be.

–The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson; Concord, N.H.

The writer is the IX Bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay priest elected bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.