U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled today that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional in Perry vs Schwarzenegger.
In the 136 page ruling he wrote:
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.
The Mormon and Catholic funded Proposition 8 was passed by California voters in 2008 after the California Supreme Court granted same sex couples access to marriage. Proposition 8 changed the California state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The entire world erupted in protests when Proposition 8 passed. In Seattle, thousands marched from Volunteer Park to Westlake Center in a demonstration for equality for gays and lesbians.
As Metro Weekley's Chris Geidner pointed out yesterday, not much will change in the lives of gays and lesbians today. No matter how the ruling went. Both parties planned to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Until the appeal process completes, the lives of thousands, perhaps millions of gays and lesbians remain in limbo.
In Washington State, voters have a similar opportunity to approve or deny rights given to gays and lesbians. Last fall, a strong majority of voters approved an expansion of relationship recognition rights for gays and lesbians by approving the Domestic Partnership Law through Referendum 71.
When the Washington legislature moves to call those rights marriage, gays and lesbians will still have the same legal protections they have today in Washington state, but our opponents will almost certainly attempt to scare Washington voters into taking those rights away through the Referendum process.
Today's decision will make it far more difficult for our opponents to take away the rights of gays and lesbians simply because they hate us. As was clearly demonstrated in this case, our opponents have no legal justification or evidence to deny rights to gays and lesbians.
Our country has three branches of government: Executive (governors and the President); Legislative (Congress and legislatures); and Judicial (the courts.) Our founding fathers created this system of government because they strongly believed the separation of powers was vital to a democracy. No single branch of government should operate without the check of another branch of government.
When voters in California voted to take away the rights of gays and lesbians, they were acting as legislators. In Doe vs Reed, a case that rose out of Washington's Referendum 71, the United States Supreme Court confirmed that citizens do act as legislators when they vote on referendum, initiatives, and propositions. When legislators overstep their constitutional rights by infringing on the rights of others, it is vital to our country that the judicial branch step in and correct the process. Today's ruling proves that our system of government still works.
While this case will likely land before the United State's Supreme Court, it did not get where it is today without first passing through the State Supreme Court. In Washington State our Supreme Court is chosen by the people. Today, voters have ballots in their hands and have the opportunity to shape Washington's future. One candidate would change the make-up of the Supreme Court in favor of progressives, and in favor of LGBT equality -- Stan Rumbaugh.
If you are eager to be treated equally in Washington, or care about the equality of your gay friends and neighbors, this is your chance to make a difference towards equality. Vote for Stan Rumbaugh. And while you are at it, sign this petition to show your support for marriage equality in Washington State. An e-mail will automatically be sent to your representative.
I am proud of my country today. I am proud that we have a system of government that ultimately protects the rights of minorities. I am looking forward to the day, when my family is treated equally in every state, including right here in Washington.