Even as proponents of California's gay
marriage ban, Proposition 8, vow to appeal, gay marriage supporters
say overturning the ruling will be difficult.
The ruling, handed down Wednesday by
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, says Proposition 8 violates
the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples who wish to
“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,” Walker wrote.
“One of the things that the judge has
done is he's made a very, very strong opinion that's very difficult
to overturn on appeal,” lead attorney David Boies said Wednesday
night during an appearance on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
California voters approved the measure
by a narrow margin on November 4, 2008. The law put an end to gay
and lesbian weddings taking place in the state after the California
Supreme Court legalized the institution.
“Only a trial court [like Walker's]
can make factual findings,” lawyer
Brian Devine said in his analysis, adding that Walker devotes 109
pages of his 138-page ruling to factual findings.
“A Court of Appeal must give great
deference to the factual findings of the trial court, especially when
those findings are based on the credibility of witness testimony.”
“We should be grateful to Judge
Walker for carefully and diligently going through the facts of the
case, creating a detailed and compelling record for the Court of
Appeal and the Supreme Court,” he added.
Douglas NeJaime, associate professor of
law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, went further.
In an email to On Top Magazine,
NeJaime said Walker concluded, based on the facts, that “Proposition
8 could not withstand the lowest level of constitutional scrutiny
since ... it is based on the idea that same-sex couples (and their
relationships) are inferior to different-sex couples (and their
“Judge Walker issued several findings
of fact, based on extensive expert testimony, to support these legal
conclusions,” he added. “Indeed, in a statement that will likely
resonate for years to come, Judge Walker concluded that '[t]he
evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples
are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as
partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex
couples are equal.'”
Walker heard 13 days of testimony
during a January trial held in a San Francisco courtroom. Closing
arguments were presented in June. He's stayed his ruling at least
until Friday, when he'll hold another hearing to determine if gay
marriages can resume as the case is being appealed.
Andy Pugno, lead counsel for Protect
Marriage, the group that sponsored Proposition 8, called the decision
“The judge's invalidation of the
votes of over seven million Californians violates binding legal
precedent and short-circuits the democratic process,” he said.
“But this is not the end of our fight to uphold the will of the
people for traditional marriage, as we now begin an appeal to the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
“We will certainly appeal this
disappointing decision,” Brian Raum, senior counsel at the Alliance
Defense Fund (ADF), whose attorneys defended Proposition 8, said.
“Its impact could be devastating to marriage and the democratic