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Prop 8 Overturned by Federal Judge

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A federal judge has overturned Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage amendment, on the grounds that it violates citizens rights to equal treatment under the law.

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Judge Walker in his decision could find no legitimate state interest in discriminating in its recognition of marriage based on the genders of the married. Rather than settling the issue entirely, this is almost certain to lead to a series of appeals that will ultimately settle the gay marriage issue at the federal Supreme Court.

The L.A. Times sums up the decision's reasoning:

The jurist, a Republican appointee who is gay, cited extensive evidence from the trial to support his finding that there was not a rational basis for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage. In particular, he rejected the argument advanced by supporters of Proposition 8 that children of opposite-sex couples fare better than children of same-sex couples, saying that expert testimony in the trial provided no support for that argument.

"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.

Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the backers of the ballot measure, said he believed Walker would be overturned on appeal.....

He called it "disturbing that the trial court, in order to strike down Prop. 8, has literally accused the majority of California voters of having ill and discriminatory intent when casting their votes for Prop. 8."

This does not mean gay marriage is instantly legal again. The ruling may end up being held pending appeal.

The San Jose Mercury News has more on the judge's reasoning and the details of the case's unfolding:

The judge based his decision on weeks of testimony that unfolded during the January trial. The plaintiffs' team, including former Republican U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, put on weeks of evidence to prove that Prop. 8 violated the rights of same-sex couples. They presented experts to testify on issues from the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians to the scope of gay and lesbian political clout. Among other things, the plaintiffs sought to debunk the argument that California's strong domestic partnership laws provide equal status to same-sex couples -- Walker agreed that those laws relegated the couples to second-class citizenship.

Defenders of Prop. 8 put just two witnesses on the stand, saying the plaintiffs had failed to prove that voters intended to discriminate and that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. Prop. 8 defenders tried to introduce evidence to show that gay marriage would undermine the institution of marriage, and that it conflicts with marriage's central purpose of procreation.

In his ruling, Walker questioned the lack of evidence and called one witness "unreliable," making it clear that the Prop. 8 defense team did little to prove that the law can be justified. In fact, the judge said only moral disapproval appeared to motivate the law, rejecting the procreation argument.

City of Angles past blogging on Prop 8's legal challenge.

The full decision by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker (a Reagan appointee, by the way).

Image taken by Flickr user ProComKelly. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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