On August 4, 2010, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8, a ballot initiative passed in California in November 2008 which had previously prevented any same-sex couples from getting married. In his statement, he ruled that the proposition violated the Equal Protection & Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment and that Prop 8 was based mainly on discrimination against lesbians & gays. This ruling came about as a result of a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples who were denied a marriage license by two different California county clerks. Despite being one of the defendants named in the suit, Governor Schwarzenegger supported the lawsuit because it asked “important constitutional questions that require and warrant judicial determination.”
During the course of the trial, several experts were called to give background on the history of marriage and discrimination against LGBT people. History professor Nancy Cott stated that marriage restrictions have traditionally been used to demean minority groups and that gender definitions as well as the definition of marriage in the United States have changed dramatically during the 20th century. Similarly, Professor George Chauncey testified about the government’s attempts during the 1950s to demonize homosexuals and the long history of public discrimination against gays and lesbians. Other witnesses were summoned to the stand to support the overturning of Prop 8 due to the economic benefits that California stands to gain and, according to Professor Anne Peplau, “most individuals who marry gain physical, psychological, and social benefits from being married.”
Judge Walker declared in his final ruling that there was no “rational basis” to deny same-sex couples from getting married and that there was no legal reason to disallow the couples from marrying. Some of the “findings of fact” that are included in the final opinion are “Marriage is a civil, not religious, matter” (Fact #19), “No credible evidence supports a finding that an individual may, through conscious decision, therapeutic intervention or any other method, change their sexual orientation” (Fact #46), and “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians” (Fact #77).
The Ninth Circuit court has ordered both of the appeals filed to be heard in San Francisco on December 6th.
The complete ruling is available here: https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf