Chief Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 today, finding that it violated gay Californians' equal protection and due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.
In a 136-page decision released just before 2 p.m. Pacific time, Walker said that the measure "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."
The ruling doesn't appear to be stayed pending appeal.
"An initiative measure adopted by the voters deserves great respect," Walker wrote. "When challenged, however, the voters' determinations must find at least some support in evidence. This is especially so when those determinations enact into law classifications of persons. Conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough. Still less will the moral disapprobation of a group or class of citizens suffice, no matter how large the majority that shares that view. The evidence demonstrated beyond serious reckoning that Proposition 8 finds support only in such disapproval."
On Tuesday, Prop 8 defendants had sought a stay in the event Walker ruled against them. "A stay is essential to averting the harms that would flow from another purported window of same-sex marriage in California," they opined.
From the beginning of the trial, the stage was set for a decision that could ultimately be on the order of Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia.
Perhaps more important than the result itself is the groundwork -- including detailed factual findings -- Walker built for a case that is widely viewed to be heading for the U.S. Supreme Court.
From the outset, Walker made clear to the parties that his goal was to create a solid record. "How we do things here is more important than what we do," he said a year ago.
At trial, Walker heard evidence on subjects like whether homosexuality is immutable or whether the Yes on 8 campaign workers were biased.
During the ensuing expert battle, the Prop 8 defense lawyers aimed to discredit the plaintiff experts' scholarship by exposing their personal support for gay marriage.
And the defense team worked to show that gays and lesbians are politically powerful in California, and that voters could have been motivated for reasons other than personal animus against gays to support Prop 8 -- like respect for tradition, or personal conscience. They pointed to President Obama's opposition to same-sex marriage as an example.
Watch for more on the ruling later this afternoon on therecorder.com.