Gay marriage proponents won a complete victory this afternoon in federal court when US District Judge Vaughn Walker issued a scathing, and meticulously argued, 138-page repudiation of Proposition 8. Walker ruled that the anti-gay marriage measure approved by voters in 2008 flatly violates both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, and thus is illegal.
Walker ruled that by seeking same-sex marriages, gays and lesbians were not trying to obtain some “new right” under the law as Prop. 8 supporters contended. Instead, Walker ruled that under the Constitution’s Due Process clause, gays and lesbians were seeking to exercise their fundamental right to marry — and thus should be treated no differently from heterosexual couples:
Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages. … Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.
Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.
Having considered the evidence, the relationship between sex and sexual orientation and the fact that Proposition 8 eliminates a right only a gay man or a lesbian would exercise, the court determines that plaintiffs’ equal protection claim is based on sexual orientation, but this claim is equivalent to a claim of discrimination based on sex.