In a historical (though not entirely unexpected) ruling yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said (in a 136-page opinion) that California’s ballot initiative Proposition 8, which was approved by 52% of voters in 2008, violated the U.S. Constitution and should be nullified.

But don’t go making wedding plans just yet, California gays.

I’ve not had time to read through the entire legal opinion, but I did want to share a few choice selections from the judge’s ruling:

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.

Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states but are now seen as archaic, shameful or even bizarre. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect.

Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy — namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.

Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.

Well, hot damn.

Conceding that the impact of his ruling was potentially very high, and presumably recognizing the certain appeal that would head to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (and eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court, if the justices decide to hear the case) Judge Walker also issued a temporary stay on implementing his decision.

Both parties in the lawsuit have until Friday to submit their responses to the stay, so that the judge can decide whether to lift or extend the order.

The fight is nowhere near over, but this is a good victory. Now we wait to see what the Circuit Court of Appeals has to say!

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