Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that California's voter-approved ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional, but he also put gay marriages on hold pending the appeals process.
The decision stems from a lawsuit, /*Perry v. Schwarzenegger*/, brought by two same-sex couples seeking to overturn Prop 8. The ruling is the first in federal court to look at /*gay marriage*/.
"With this decision, the system worked. Our courts are supposed to protect our constitutional rights. Today, they did," said plaintiff Kris Perry.
Supporters of Prop 8 argued Walker's ruling ignored California voters, who approved the measure in November 2008. They have vowed to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Depending on the outcome there, the issue could go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The judge has dealt a terrible blow to natural marriage, the voters' rights, the Constitution, and this republic we call the United States of America," said Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com.
Still, supporters of gay marriage say the ruling was a huge step.
"It's a great victory. There's a long road ahead, but to actually have the ruling ... is a major victory," said Sharmalee Lall, who supports same-sex marriage
Walker, an openly gay Republican appointee, declared in a strongly worded 136-page ruling that limiting marriage to a man and a woman serves no legitimate purpose. He also said Prop 8 violates equal protection and due process rights that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Walker has said he would continue waiting for the 9th Circuit to make its decision before making his opinion final and lifting the ban on gay marriage in California. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has no deadline to hear the case.
The Prop 8 initiative was the most expensive campaign on a social issue in U.S. history, with each side spending roughly $40 million. The initiative surpassed every campaign in the country in terms of spending, except the presidential contest.
In an exclusive ABC7 Eyewitness News/SurveyUSA poll, 500 adults were asked the following questions:
Should same-sex couples be able to share in the legal benefits of marriage, such as the right to inherit property and the right to make medical decisions for one another? Or should the legal benefits of marriage be restricted only to couples consisting of a man and a woman?
- 64% Same-sex couples
- 33% Man and woman
- 3% Not sure
Based on what you know, are gay people born gay? Or do they choose to be gay?
- 50% Born gay
- 36% Choose to be gay
- 14% Not sure
In California, should Proposition 8 remain law? Or should Proposition 8 be overturned?
- 43% Remain law
- 42% Be overturned
- 15% Not sure
A federal judge has held that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. Do you agree or disagree with the decision?
- 43% Agree
- 46% Disagree
- 11% Not sure
(The margin of sampling error for these questions is +/- 4.5%)