Judge rules that says same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

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Stop the hate--and restart the same-sex marriages!
Sarah Phelan
Same-sex marriage supporters (as evidenced by this photo) have worked long and hard to overturn Prop. 8

Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that California’s Prop. 8 is unconstitutional got Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Attorney Dennis Herrera issuing praise-filled statements today. And Herrera's statement included comments that reaffirmed the pivotal role that the City Attorney's Office played in this landmark case.

“U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker has issued a powerful, thoughtful, and well-reasoned decision,” Ammiano said. “In overturning Proposition 8, this court fulfilled its legacy as a champion for equality.  The court recognized that it is unconstitutional to put a minority’s rights up for a popular vote.  Today’s decision reaffirmed our U.S. Constitution’s promise of equality for all.”

Newsom, who stuck out his neck in 2004 when he decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, said Walker's decision, "is a victory for the fundamental American idea enshrined in our Constitution that separate is not equal and that all people deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. It is a victory for the thousands of California couples, their families and friends whose lives and loving, committed relationships have once again been affirmed in the eyes of the law.

"As Judge Walker states in his ruling," Newsom continued, "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.’

"In the words of Dr. King, ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’" Newsom commented. "Today in California, history took another great step for all Americans towards fully realizing the principals of equality and fairness on the long march to justice. I salute the team of Ted Olsen, David Boies and City Attorney Dennis Herrera for so clearly and eloquently presenting the case against Prop 8. We will look to their commitment and wisdom again as the fight for marriage equality moves through appeal and, one day, to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Herrera, for his part, said the ruling, “strikes a resonant chord against discrimination that should not only withstand appeal, but change hearts and minds.”

“I'm extremely grateful to Judge Walker for a thorough and well reasoned decision that powerfully affirms the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection,” Herrera said. He noted that today’s federal court decision relied on key arguments and evidence presented by his office about the adverse governmental consequences of Prop. 8, the 2008 ballot measure, which eliminated fundamental marriage rights for same-sex partners in California. 

Nearly a year ago, Walker granted Herrera's motion to intervene in the case, which the American Foundation for Equal Rights orginally filed on behalf of two California couples. Today, Herrera noted that San Francisco was the first government in U.S. history to sue to strike down marriage laws that discriminate against same-sex partners.

“And the San Francisco City Attorney's Office is the only party to have played a role in virtually every iteration of the legal battle for marriage equality in California,” Herrera continued, noting that his office entered the fight for equal marriage rights in defense of Newsom's decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. 

“Later, the office sued to strike down the anti-same sex marriage exclusion in state courts, a legal endeavor that ultimately succeeded with the California Supreme Court's landmark ruling in 2008,” Herrera continued.  “Later that year, after California voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, the City was among the co-plaintiffs to challenge the amendment in the California Supreme Court; that effort was unsuccessful.” 

But while today’s news is a hopeful sign, same-sex couples are urged not to rush to get a license from City Hall, at least not just yet: Shortly after issuing the ruling, Judge Walker issued a temporary stay, and an appeal is expected.