N.D. Cal. strikes down Proposition 8

By J. DeVoy

Vaughn Walker, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, has ruled in a monster 136-page opinion that Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment rights of same-sex couples.  The full order can be found here.

The decision is significant, especially on the heels of the District of Massachusetts striking down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act.  In contrast, Wisconsin ruled in June that its gay marriage ban, memorialized in the state’s constitution as a separate amendment, was constitutional.  Despite the inconsistency of courts across the country, today’s decision indicates that the fundamental right to marry applies to all people.

Although Proposition 8 has been held unconstitutional and its enforcement enjoined, same-sex marriage currently is legal only in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C.  California, the nation’s most populous state, may soon join that list.

As usual, Above The Law chimes in with its great analysis of the decision.  The court found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.  However, the entry of judgment has been stayed until the motion to stay pending appeal is decided, per the case’s docket.

Because an appeal seems to already be in the works, and the 9th Circuit’s unique relationship with the Supreme Court and rest of the country, there’s speculation that the case will ultimately make it to One First Street.  The timeline for these maneuvers remains to be seen, and the composition of the Supreme Court could change radically by the time this case makes it there.  Today, though, there has been victory not only for the LGBTQ community and its allies, but for the whole notion of equality.

13 Responses to N.D. Cal. strikes down Proposition 8

  1. evrenseven says:

    I wonder if the same people who heralded the decision to strike down Chicago’s gun control law will now decry the “activist judge” who overturned the will of the people?”

  2. Charles Platt says:

    I am one of those “same people” (how easy it is to categorize people, eh?) who is happy with both decisions. Of course I would prefer it if marriage were just a civil contract, so that we wouldn’t have to go through any of this absurd time-wasting nonsense.

    I wonder whether a gay justice should really recuse himself/herself from a case of this kind.

    • I considered whether a gay judge should recuse himself, and a part of me says yes. But, we have a system where religious zealot judges not only do not recuse themselves from cases involving church and state issues, or “sin” issues, but they never would. So fuckem. Lets presume the gay guy made as principled of a decision as anyone.

    • evrenseven says:

      point taken. I’ll assume you will wonder whether Justice Thomas should recuse himself in a case regarding race, that Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor (and probably Kagan) recuse themselves from gender related cases, that Roberts, Kennedy, Sotomayor, Alito, Thomas and Scalia recuse themselves in cases regarding Catholicism, should I continue?

  3. Charles Platt says:

    I’ll take the question from evrenseven seriously. I think the problem I have with a gay judge dealing with gay civil rights is that gays have historically and correctly felt oppressed and therefore might be more sensitive on gay issues than even a black judge dealing with a race issue.

    It is perhaps more socially acceptable these days to be in a high position, and black, than to be in a high position and gay, although I guess that’s still gradually changing.

    Basically I don’t trust anyone to be entirely objective (including myself), so it’s all a matter of degree.

    • evrenseven says:

      You and I clearly agree on the outcome and we’re merely arguing nuance here… but when this goes to the Supreme Guardian Council of Catholic Vice and Virtue (formerly known as the Supreme Court) there will be 6 out of 9 of them who will get their instructions faxed to them by vampires with pointy hats in the Vatican.

      They won’t recuse themselves.

  4. Charles Platt says:

    I just discovered that Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the 9th Circuit is, supposedly, homosexual, and was accused (plausibly?) of bias in the way that he handled the Proposition 8 trial. See http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/230960/judge-walker-s-anti-prop-8-sham-trial/ed-whelan

    Which just confirms my original suspicion.

    As for Catholics on the Supreme Court: I tend to think that anyone who seriously believes in transubstantiation is too irrational to be trusted with any serious decision. Just my opinion of course, but, really, this is on a level with voodoo.

    • evrenseven says:

      First of all, he’s not supposedly a homosexual, he *is* a homosexual.

      Again, if that disqualifies him, then see my above post about recusing judges based on their personal characteristics.

      I read that NRO article. It’s pure drivel that doesn’t qualify as legal analysis. A parade of anti prop 8 witnesses? “supposed facts?” wow.

    • Harry Mauron says:

      Yeah, transubstantiation and voodoo are nutty, but virgin birth, reincarnation, inerrant book translations and talking to sky-friends are Spock-ishly logical.

      On topic, I think Walker was trying to bend the issues to set up another Loving v. VA, and he did a good job of that.

    • Halcyon 1L says:

      And members of the NRA should recuse themselves from gun control trials? Please guy.

      The Judge hans’t exactly been friendly to gay rights either. And his decision isn’t out of left field–it’s based on principles that are sound. It’s an issue that could go either way, which is why we have appeals courts.

      There’s nothing wrong about the judge’s decision to not recuse himself.

      I could see an argument that because he is gay, they decision might have the whiff of bias, which should be avoided. But that argument is being applied too selectively against this judge for being gay and not at all against a number of members of SCOTUS for their participation in decisions that have more than a whiff of bias.

    • andrews says:

      Sure, we’ll need to disqualify this judge. However, since the amendment is intended to favor heterosexuals, we also need to disqualify any practicing heterosexuals when the case comes back down.

  5. ScottC says:

    Why isn’t a straight judge just as biased but in the opposite direction as a gay judge?

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