“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. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and 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.”
So ends the 138-page decision by Vaughn Walker, a federal judge in California, ruling that Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, is unconstitutional.
I know the issue touches a lot of nerves, but having dipped into Judge Walker’s decision, I found it calm, rational and very persuasive. The problem for those who promoted Proposition 8 is that basic human rights, recognized in our Constitution, are not subject to popular vote.
The basic argument that I’ve heard against gay marriage is that allowing it is a break with thousands of years of human experience and religious tradition. Those are not trivial points, but they are also not, on their own, persuasive. After all, human experience and religious tradition did not recognized gender equity for thousands of years, but did allow for human slavery.
To state that one class of people (gays and lesbians) don’t deserve a legal status (married) that applies to all others strikes at basic equity. Honestly, it’s not that big a surprise to an Iowan that Iowa led the way on this point—we may be a conservative people, but with a very strong live and let live ethos, too.
A religious group can decide whether it will bless a union. But a government needs a secular rationale for the laws it makes.
Yes, I know, will we allow group marriages, polygamy, marriage between women and Boston Terriers? Well, no, I don’t think so. Polygamy is associated with cultures that have severe problems with gender equity. The union of “two” can be justified on all kind of sociological grounds in terms of preserving some sense of equity between partners—I don’t’ think it’s much of a stretch to make a secular case for “pairs” in a marriage.
And nobody would marry a Boston Terrier. Maybe a Beagle.
Bravo, Judge Walker. I’m sure you’ll get your share of abuse. From my vantage point, it seems you bravely fulfilled your responsibility to dispassionately apply the law.
Must be why President Bush appointed you. (Editorial note the next day: Reagan appointed him, but he was not affirmed until Bush the elder was President).