Prop 8 Overturned: An American Moment

Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result,see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8.

The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.

IT IS SO ORDERED.
That was the order of US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker that made clear that protections of the US Constitution applies as well to gay Americans as it does to our heterosexual counterparts.  It was a landmark decision in defense of the words inscribed on the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law.

Can it get overturned on appeal?  Sure. But the Courage Campaign has done a great job covering and tracking the Prop 8 trial, and there, Attorney Brian Devine presented a succinct analysis of why his decision is solid and would be difficult to overturn.
Most of the decision (the first 109 pages) is the “factual findings.”  This is crucial, and here’s why.  On appeal, Judge Walker’s conclusions of law are basically irrelevant.  Questions of law are decided fresh on appeal, and the trial court’s thoughts on the law are entitled to no deference.  On the other hand, only a trial court can make factual findings.  A Court of Appeal must give great deference to the factual findings of the trial court, especially when those findings are based on the credibility of witness testimony.  Judge Walker knows this.  He knows that his primary role in this case is to weigh the credibility of the evidence that was presented at trial and apply the facts that were proven to the law. But the law–unlike the facts–ultimately will be decided by nine Justices at a higher pay grade. Consequently, we should be grateful to Judge Walker for carefully and diligently going through the facts of the case, creating a detailed and compelling record for the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
I highly recommend reading the whole piece by Devine.  And bookmark Equality On Trial to follow the next stages of this process.  The fight is by no means over.  The anti-gay forces will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case will eventually end up in the Supreme Court.  But the judge found the facts of the case very strongly in our favor and recognized, ultimately, that the state has no rational basis to discriminate against gay couples.  The California Constitutional Amendment rescinding the right of gay couples to marry was, therefore, found to have violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the US Constitution.

Still, the causes for celebration are just.  It made me - and countless other Californians - feel like equal citizens again in the state and the nation that we so dearly love.  Marriage, a civil institution, should not be denied to gay Americans.  Last night, I went to San Jose's Billy deFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, CA for a rally to celebrate our victory.  We were just as blessed to have gay elected officials speaking to us as we were to have incredible straight allies that have stood by us through thick and thin.  I felt a rush of pride and emotion take me over when the Silicon Valley Gay Men's Chorus took the stage and sang the Star Spangled Banner.  As we all rose and placed our hands on our hearts, we renewed the credo of a great nation.  I couldn't imagine a different place to be for the evening.

Here is a slideshow of our rally.



It was, as I mentioned, a truly American moment.  Equal rights under the law is an American principle - a principle that brought together two of the nation's best lawyers at the Supreme Court level.  In the last famous Supreme Court decision, David Boies and Ted Olson ended up on different sides of the argument.  But not this time.  A true belief in the quintessential American values of freedom, justice and equality brought the two of them together to fight the injustice of marriage inequality.  With Boies' cross examination of the opposite side's witnesses and Olson's closing arguments, we have won the first round.  We, as a community and as a country, owe these two men a lot.

As we prepare for the next chapter in the battle, we can be secure in the knowledge that a federal court has finally recognized the right of all couples to due process and the equal protection of the law.