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Prop. 8 overturned: Why Vaughn Walker ruled against gay-marriage ban

Prop. 8 overturned by US District Judge Vaughn Walker Wednesday. Judge Walker ruled that the California gay-marriage ban violates the Constitution's equal protection clause.

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Supporters of Proposition 8 had argued that the government has a rational reason to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. They said because marriage is likely to result in children, the state wants to encourage both birth parents to raise their children within a stable household.

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Walker rejected the proponents’ rationale, saying that same-sex and opposite-sex couples “are of equal quality.” He added: “The evidence shows beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes.”

The judge said supporters of the ban were clearly motivated by moral disapproval of homosexuality. “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians,” Walker wrote. “The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”

He also rejected arguments that California should proceed slowly in developing policies on gay marriage and that officials should defer to tradition. “Tradition alone,” he said, “cannot form a rational basis for a law.”

Walker wrote that the idea of restricting marriage to one man and one woman was “an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.”

Rather than advancing a state interest, the judge said, Proposition 8 harms the state’s interest in equality. “It mandates that men and women be treated differently based only on antiquated and discredited notions of gender.”

The judge said that based on evidence produced at the trial, same-sex marriage would have no impact on society or the institution of marriage. He said the state of California had “no interest in waiting and no practical need to wait to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

Supporters of Proposition 8 had urged Walker, before he announced his ruling on Wednesday, to stay the ruling pending the outcome of appeals. The judge did not take that action. The lawyers are expected to ask the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a stay.