Judge rules Proposition 8 unconstitutional; issues stay order

Mark Hiebert holds his 4-year-old son, Logan, while his 6-year-old daughter Amira waves a rainbow flag at West Hollywood Park.
Mark Hiebert holds his 4-year-old son, Logan, while his 6-year-old daughter Amira waves a rainbow flag at West Hollywood Park.
Patricia Nazario/KPCC

SAN FRANCISCO — Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has ruled Proposition 8 is unconstitutional "under both the due-process and equal-protection" clauses. Walker has temporarily stayed his order until Friday, allowing Prop. 8 supporters time to file appeals.

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Thousands gather in West Hollywood Park to celebrate ruling

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Eric Garcetti joined a celebratory crowd today at West Hollywood Park to hail a judge's decision to overturn Proposition 8.

Villaraigosa compared the struggle for gay equality to that of the civil rights struggle of the '60s, telling the crowd "this is a fight about respect and tolerance."

Kids and married gay couples waved rainbow flags as they milled about the event, which was organized by the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

-Patricia Nazario

Updated at 5:35 p.m. | Permalink
Conservatives blast judge's ruling, defend voters

L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich today said U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling overturning Prop 8 was an example of the judicial activism that Thomas Jefferson had once warned about.

Proposition 8 had been placed on the ballot after the courts found Proposition 22 unconstitutional, Antonovich said, adding that the judge’s "political correctness agenda" trumped the will of the people who voted.

"Today’s ruling was a direct assault to the over 4.5 million voters in 2000, and the over 7 million who turned out in 2008 to vote on this vital issue. Ultimately, it will be up to the United States Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Proposition 8,” he said.

Republican state Senate candidate Carly Fiorina also said today that the voters clearly spoke on the issue at the ballot box in 2008. While she said that she disagrees with the judge's ruling, "this is one in what will be a multi-step legal process."

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, questioned the federal court's handling of a case that he said belongs in the state's court system. The federal Constitution does not establish marriage policy, which means under the 10th Amendment the issue falls under the states' purview, he said.

"This is a tyrannical, abusive and utterly unconstitutional display of judicial arrogance. It's inexcusable for [Judge Walker] to deprive the citizens of California of their right to govern themselves, and cavalierly trash the will of over seven million voters."

-Julio Morales

Updated at 4:15 p.m. | Permalink
Equalization of taxes for married gay couples sought

Jill Darling of Sherman Oaks married her wife after the California Supreme Court decision permitted same-sex marriage in May 2008 and before voters passed Prop 8 six months later. She was happy with the ruling, but added she thinks a more important issue is for federal laws to change to equalize the inheritance and other taxes charged of same-sex and heterosexual couples.

“Legal gay marriage in California or any other state is peachy keen, but what we all really need are federal civil "marriages" or "unions"or I don't care what they are called. The point is that we should be taxed like everyone else instead of paying penalty taxes on being gay,” Darling said.

-Sharon McNary

Updated at 3:50 p.m. | Permalink
Judge issues stay order for decision until Friday

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has temporarily stayed his order until Friday, allowing supporters of Prop 8 time to file appeals and seek a long-term stay.

Gay marriage will not be allowed to resume immediately. Judge Walker says he wants to decide whether his order should be suspended while proponents of the ban pursue their appeal and has asked for written arguments from both sides by Friday.

-Associated Press

Updated at 3:35 p.m. | Permalink
Court ruling praised, scorned

Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said the judge's decision was an affront to the democratic tradition.

"[Judge Walker] threw out the democratic voting process with this radical decision," said Nimocks. "For a single federal judge to throw out the voices of millions of voters in California it is truly a sad day for democracy in America.

California Log Cabin Republicans announced today that the court's decision strengthened the rights of all Californians and was a sound interpretation of conservative ideals.

"Today, all Californians have had their rights strengthened through the court's decision. As Republicans, we are heartened that plaintiff's attorneys used core conservative principles of privacy, liberty and freedom to convince the court that Prop 8 should be overturned.

Lanzi said the group will continue to work to change hearts and minds across California.

-KPCC staff

Updated at 3:21 p.m. | Permalink
Prop 8 supporter won't extend support

Sara Gildez of Costa Mesa, who strongly opposes same-sex marriage and described herself as single and straight, said, “I expect to be pushed to not only tolerate, but support and cheer on homosexual couples, and I will not do that.”

-Sharon McNary

Updated at 3:11 p.m. | Permalink
UC law professor: 'Let the marriages begin'

Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine law professor, said moral disapproval of same-sex marriage might have been in line with historical attitudes, but that it was not enough to justify discrimination.

“What makes this case different is it’s the first time that a judge has said same sex marriage violates the United States Constitution, not just state constitutions. So this opens the door to the Supreme Court and a more definitive ruling.”

Chemerinsky said that if [judge Walker] doesn’t stay his ruling, gay and lesbian couples could marry in California. The decision may take months and leave a window open for presumably thousands of marriages.

“It is very clear that judge Walker has declared Prop 8 unconstitutional across the board, and it will go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Now it is up to the Ninth Circuit to stay his decision, but until then let the marriages begin.”

-Collin Robinson

Updated at 2:55 p.m. | Permalink
Lead plaintiffs look forward to enjoying marriage 'security'

Lead plaintiff Kristin Perry reacted to the ruling by thanking her families for their understanding.

"Having the right to choose changes your entire life. Our courts are supposed to protect our constitutional rights. Today they did.”

Perry's partner Sandi Stier said tomorrow will be different for her.

"I will have a sense of security I haven't been able to experience in the past. Since I met Kris I've been waiting for this day, this moment when we could be married — legally married. A signed, sealed, delivered legal marriage."

-Julie Small

Updated at 2:40 p.m. | Permalink
Gay & Lesbian Center CEO: Ruling an expansion of 'liberty and justice'

The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center today hailed Judge Walker's decision as an affirmation of American ideals and the core principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the center, also said the ruling should not be considered a complete victory as long as the LGBT community continues to face discrimination in other parts of the country.

The decades-long struggle for LGBT equality has been highlighted by many obstacles to progress, Jean said.

"One of the exceptional hallmarks of our nation’s progress has been the expansion of our concepts of liberty and justice to include those of us who were not initially considered fully equal, or who were perhaps not even considered at all," Jean said.

-Julio Morales

Updated at 2:20 p.m. | Permalink
Villaraigosa: 'Sun shines a little brighter' in California today

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the judge's ruling overturning Prop 8 today a landmark case that will no doubt continue to play out in court.

“Today, the sun shines a little brighter on the Golden State. A federal judge has affirmed what a majority of Californians know to be true: that love does not discriminate and that marriage is a civil right, not a privilege reserved for a select class of citizens."

Villaraigosa said members of the LGBT community and all Californians deserve to be afforded the same rights and privileges under the nation's laws.

-KPCC Staff

Updated at 2:00 p.m. | Permalink
Judge's ruling called a 'grand slam'

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said on today's Patt Morrison show that the judge's ruling was a grand slam and that the court made very detailed and factual assertions in favor of gay love and marriage.

"This is really a landmark decision, we have not seen a court make a ruling with this amount of depth ever before... and this is factual nondisputable evidence in favor of our cause. We are thrilled by this decision," said Minter.

-KPCC Staff

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Judge overturns Prop 8
His verdict comes in response to a lawsuit brought by two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco seeking to invalidate the law as an unlawful infringement on the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.

Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriages in California five months after the state Supreme Court legalized them, passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008 following the most expensive campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.

Attorneys on both sides have said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it.

Anticipating such a scenario, lawyers for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8 in 2008 filed a legal brief Tuesday asking Walker to stay his decision if he overturns the ban so same-sex couples could not marry while an appeal was pending.

"Same-sex marriages would be licensed under a cloud of uncertainty, and should proponents succeed on appeal, any such marriages would be invalid," they wrote.

Walker presided over a 13-day trial earlier this year that was the first in federal court to examine if states can prohibit gays from getting married without violating the constitutional guarantee of equality.

Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

Opponents said that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.

David Wilson of Mission Viejo says his marriage shouldn’t matter to others.

“I may be married to a man, but I’m married nonetheless. If they can’t handle that, that’s not my problem,” he said. “Even before I really realized I was gay, I'd always had a strong belief in equal rights, and that some aspect of a person's life that's wholly out of their control -- gender, race, sexual orientation, what have you -- shouldn't preclude them from being able to have the same rights as someone else.”

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