Federal Court Strikes Down Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Federal Court Strikes Down Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A federal district court judge today struck down California's ban on gay marriage, ruling that the prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution. The decision, which is expected to be appealed, represents the first time a federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry.

In his ruling, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker stated that gay and lesbian couples enjoy a fundamental right to marry. This right, according to Walker, is protected by both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, was prompted by the passage of Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. In striking down that language, Walker said that it served no real purpose beyond discriminating against same-sex couples. “Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples,” he wrote, adding: “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.” 

Proposition 8 had survived an earlier challenge in state court. That case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, which, in May 2009, ruled that Proposition 8 was valid.

Read the full report, Federal Court Strikes Down Calif. Same-Sex Marriage Ban on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.