One day after a watershed moment for religious tolerance comes encouraging news from the other coast, as U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker rules California’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional. The openly gay Bush appointee’s 138-page ruling is full of quotable lines. Most news outlets are running with “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis for singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license” and “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights.” My personal favorite is this one: “Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states, but are now considered archaic, shameful, or even bizarre.” So it will be with these anti-gay marriage laws.
The law blogs are lighting up over the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Where other gay-oriented legal groups like Lambda Legal were advising caution, David Boies and Ted Olson, two heterosexual lawyers with minimal experience in LGBT law (and who were on opposing sides in the Bush v. Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election) went for the big victory and got it. There was a flap back in January when the Supreme Court prevented Judge Walker from streaming the trial live on YouTube, but the plaintiffs looked headed for the win when the defense couldn’t find any credible expert witnesses to say that gay marriage was a bad thing. They were reduced to citing fear as the reason for their lack of witnesses. Fear of deserved ridicule from their professional colleagues, perhaps.
Of course, this ruling isn’t the end by a long shot — a lengthy appeals process beckons. It feels like the beginning of the end, though, and Walker seems to have anticipated a Supreme Court challenge by heavily citing swing justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinions in his decision. This comes less than a month after Massachusetts U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro struck down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, so these are heady days for gay rights.