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Prop. 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

Prop. 8 is unconstitutional, according to San Francisco federal judge Vaughn Walker.

Today's highly anticipated ruling overturns California's 2008 constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, narrowly approved by voters shortly after the state's Supreme Court legalized them (good refresher here). Both sides have pledged to appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court, though the Ninth Circuit will receive it next.

In an electronically-filed decision, Walker explained why he believes Prop. 8 violates the Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. He wrote:

"Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."

Walker later observed: "A private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation." And concluded: "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."

A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute suggested Californians today would narrowly repeal Prop. 8 if voting again, though GetReligion pointed out the possible biases in the poll.

It's been a busy summer for same-sex marriage in the legal world. In July, a federal judge in Boston declared unconstitutional the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which codifies marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The July ruling held that the federal law violates states' rights to define marriage by blocking legally married gay couples from federal benefits and violating the Constitution's "equal protection" clause. Currently five states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while 29 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit it.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in June that, because European Union members have not yet reached a consensus on the matter, same-sex marriage cannot be viewed as a human right. Portugal, Iceland and Argentina legalized the practice this summer.

Pew produced a research package on the U.S. debate here. Past CT articles on same-sex marriage can be found here.

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