Today Chief Judge Vaughn Walker (N.D. Cal.) issued his ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage. The case was famously brought by Ted Olson and David Boies, two of the nation’s top lawyers (who previously faced off in Bush v. Gore, on opposite sides of the case). We first learned of the news at 4:35 PM today (via Chris Rovzar of New York magazine).
In his 136-page ruling, Chief Judge Walker — a Bush I appointee to the federal bench who is generally viewed as a moderate, not some crazy San Francisco liberal — ruled that Prop 8 is “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses.” Accordingly, he “order[ed] entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement.”
A permanent injunction? Expect Prop 8 proponents to turn to a higher court in 3, 2, 1…. But is the famously left-leaning Ninth Circuit going to be much help?
For excerpts from the opinion and more links, see below….
UPDATE: This post has been revised extensively since it was first published.
Note especially the update near the end of this post regarding Judge Walker’s STAYING THE ENTRY OF JUDGMENT.
We have also added a READER POLL, after the jump.
Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly has prepared an excellent summary of Judge Walker’s findings of fact (because remember, this was a lengthy trial, with an extensive record). Check out Geidner’s distillation of the factual findings here.
We took a quick spin through Judge Walker’s lengthy decision and picked out some highlights. The conclusions of law begin on page 109. Here’s a choice quote from page 111:
Never has the state inquired into procreative capacity or intent before issuing a marriage license; indeed, a marriage license is more than a license to have procreative sexual intercourse.
From page 113:
The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.
From page 135, “CONCLUSION”:
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.
From page 136, “REMEDIES”:
Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result, see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.
Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.
UPDATE (8:30 PM): Geidner’s summary of Judge Walker’s conclusions of law appears here.
As previously discussed, Judge Walker is allegedly gay himself. Proposition 8 defenders didn’t make a big deal of this in the trial court (i.e., while the case was still before Judge Walker). But will they raise it as an issue during the appellate process and/or outside the courtroom, in the court of public opinion?
UPDATE (5:45 PM): From Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly, via Twitter:
“The clerk shall STAY entry of judgment herein until the motion to stay pending appeal has been decided.” #Prop8 #lgbt
Geidner’s source is the case docket, which states:
ORDER granting  Motion to Shorten Time. Plaintiffs, plaintiff-intervenor and defendants are DIRECTED to respond to Doc #705 on or before August 6, 2010. The clerk shall STAY entry of judgment herein until the motion to stay pending appeal has been decided. (vrwlc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/4/2010)
What are your thoughts on the Prop 8 ruling? Vote in our poll, and argue it out in the comments.
Perry v. Schwarzenegger [U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California via Metro Weekly]
Judge Vaughn Walker Hands Victory to Proposition 8 Opponents [New York Magazine]
Judge Walker: Prop 8 Unconstitutional [Metro Weekly]
Prop 8 Decision Day FAQ [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]