Breaking: Judge rules Proposition 8 unconstitutional

From NY Mag:

This afternoon U.S District Judge Vaugh Walker ruled in the case brought before him by lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, which argued that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same sex couples in California was unconstitutional. In a decision just handed down to lawyers for both sides, Walker ruled in that Proposition 8 is “unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses.” The court, therefore, “orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement.” We’re staying tuned for more updates and details on the 136-page decision, but these two sentences from the conclusion are critical:

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.

I will add updates with more info and analysis as I process what’s coming in, but yay!

Update: This decision will be appealed, so this is not the end for this issue.

The Judge issued a “stay” which means the ruling doesn’t go into effect immediately (which would have allowed same-sex couples to start getting married right away. It’s still unclear how long this stay will last.

If you want to send a thanks to the couples involved in the court case, you can do that here through HRC.

Update II: Stay issued until Friday, when the Judge will decide whether to continue to hold the effect of the decision until the appeals are heard, or go ahead with it. (via TPM)

Join the Conversation

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    It looks (reading on like this was a very expansive decision agreeing with both of the plaintiffs’ major arguments (violation of due process & equal protection under 14th amendment) and explicitly saying that the strict scrutiny standard must be applied to any proposed law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Also (as far as I can tell) no stay was applied to the ruling so it looks like same-sex marriages should be legal and obtainable as of like tomorrow.

    Wow, this is like the biggest possible win! Boy, was I too pessimistic!

    • Sam Lindsay-Levine

      Looks like I was wrong on the stay – it’s not in the ruling document itself (which is a pretty enjoyable read and you can find in its entirety here). Fingers crossed that the it will only last until Friday and not through the inevitable appeal.

  • Jessica


  • Ruth

    This.Is.So.Awesome. I am not even American, but I have many friends in the US directly affected by this. This makes me so happy!

  • Heather

    OMG YAY!!!! That’s pretty much all I have to say!

  • Mikaela

    This is great news!

  • Erin

    “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”

    Ya think?

    Thank goodness for good news. And yeah, yeah, I know that it’s not even close to over, but I think we need to celebrate our victories when we get ‘em.

  • Julie


  • jamie

    As a community we have compared Prop 8 to segregation a hundred billion times to explain why it is wrong, unconstitutional, whatever. How do we use that example without thinking about how desegregation has affected people of color in negative ways that we can still see today… and how do i, as a WHITE FOOL, talk about it??

    Okay, i think that desegregation went like this: sure we’ll let you in society, if you act JUST LIKE US and take our values that we have already decided are “good” (aka beneficial for a small majority at the top of the food chain) and if you behave yourselves. Don’t wear your hair naturally, don’t hold on to the culture you are from, don’t speak in different languages, don’t believe your religions, and don’t rock the boat: be an AMUUURRICAN.

    and i fear very very strongly that something horribly similar is happening to the queer community.

    I feel sick with fear that we are just buying in instead of fixing root problems: what has been set up as good or right was not decided in everyone’s best interest.

    I just think we need to take a closer look instead of buying in to the “american dream”

    Why is marriage a human right?

    I understand that people are happy that they can “choose” whether or not they want to buy in to marriage.. i know everyone doesn’t have to get married… but honestly i feel like because of manipulation and social control there isn’t much choice involved… little girls are playing “wedding” at three years old…

    Maybe I’m just jaded. Or maybe we take for granted how manipulated we are.

    • Trinity

      A few thoughts in response:

      First, in my experience, the queer community (inasmuch as there’s anything unitary that can be called the queer community) is not so much interested in buying in to marriage as it is interested in putting its foot down and demanding any rights or opportunities that are being denied. It seems as though marriage has become the issue not so much because the queer community as a whole is specifically invested in being able to marry as because the heterosexist community is invested in denying them that particular right. Yes, letting the other side dictate the agenda undesirable, but rolling over and taking it is worse.

      Second, and this is mostly on a personal level, despite marriage’s entirely problematic history, and the horrors of the modern wedding-industrial complex, I’d rather see feminists, queer folk, and everyone who’s paying attention reclaim and reinvent the institution, rather than set it aside. Along with everything else, marriage as it currently exists is a legal institution that makes it easier to build a legal structure in support of a chosen relationship. In a time when the personal and interpersonal are so often undervalued, the existence within our government of structures hellbent on protecting relationships seems like something with a lot of potential. Right now it’s not working, but the basic structure seems like something that feminism could do a lot of good with.

  • Emily

    Maybe someone with more legal knowledge can help me, but I don’t understand how Prop 8 violated Due Process. The equal protection clause makes sense, and I’m very much a supporter of gay marriage, but I worry that throwing out the law based partially on due process won’t hold up on appeal. Can anyone explain it to me?