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Wedding Bells in California on August 18th ? Judge Walker Lifts the Stay on Gay Marriage August 12, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Gay Marriage, Law, Ethics & Society, Religion.
Tags: , , ,

Tears of joy and of outrage may flood the streets of San Francisco today as Judge Vaughn Walker, who invalidated California’s Proposition 8  last week, has now removed the last impediment to gay marriage.  He had delayed the implementation of his order with a legal stay to allow time for argument over whether the stay should remain in effect pending appeal of his decision. Judge Walker has concluded that it is not in the public interest to maintain the stay.  Therefore, people are free to get married, beginning on August 18th, in accordance with his ruling even though his decision is being appealed to a higher court. However, the August 18th date does allow time for a ruling on the stay by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Court to which the case has been appealed.

Judge Walker’s decision that invalidated Proposition 8  was based upon the evidence presented at trial which included eighteen witnesses presented by the plaintiffs to demonstrate the viability of gay marriage.  The defense presented only two witnesses and relied upon Supreme Court precedent and the idea that gay marriage is a social experiment with unknown consequences.

Judge Walker opined that marriage is a matter of civil law, not a religious determination and found that “Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus toward gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate. The Constitution cannot control private biases, but neither can it tolerate them. …”

He further found that,

”The evidence at trial regarding the campaign to pass Proposition 8 uncloaks the most likely explanation for its passage: a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex couples. …

”Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. …”

One of the most interesting aspects of this case is that people were not originally expecting  Judge Walker to conduct the  lengthy trial that he did. The trial afforded him the ability to write an opinion that applied the appropriate constitutional standard to the lengthy factual record amassed.   Appellate courts do not revisit the facts other than to determine whether the trial judge appropriately applied the law.  Judge Walker wrote a 136 page opinion and carefully and explicitly applied the law to the facts….

The plaintiffs are confident that the decision will ultimately be upheld while the defendants have no doubt that the decision will be reversed.  Thus, this case  not only  reflects  one  of the major civil rights issue of the day, but also is a prime example of the role of the judicial system to apply the rule of law and “calmly” decide the passionate issues of our times.



1. Ruth - August 12, 2010

Ding Dong the offending Prop 8 may be dead! Let us hope so.

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