Judge Vaughn Walker may not be a household name just yet, but yesterday the 9th Circuit District Court judge ruled California’s controversial Prop 8 unconstitutional. With Prop 8 overturned, it’s very possible that Walker will be remembered for a long time as a key figure in the struggle for gay rights.
“Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis,” Walker’s 138-page ruling handed down yesterday on the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger states, “the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect.”
The anti-gay marriage law, which was passed by California voters on a ballot initiative in the 2008 general election, has had opponents from the get-go. Now, many of those adversaries are rejoicing. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneris jumped on the internet to laud the decision while Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno quickly issued a statement that “justice is advancing thanks to today’s ruling affirming Californians’ constitutional right to marriage in faithful, same-gender relationships.”
This follows a Massachussets ruling in July by a federal judge that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law passed under Bush which defines marriage as one man and one woman, was also unconstitutional. Things are looking up for defenders of same-sex marriage, but does this mean that gay marriage is going to become legal across the board in the United States?
Well, not yet, at least in California. The next step is most likely going to be the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court followed by the Supreme Court, so don’t expect same-sex marriages to start happening again right away.
While the battle for equality for same-sex partners hasn’t been won completely, this us still a major victory. With Prop 8 overturned, at least for the moment, there is now considerably more hope than there has been in a while.
Activists can only hope that other courts will see the discrimination inherent in Proposition 8 and want none of it, just like Vaughn Walker did and add their name to his as people helping to bring about equality under the law for all.