Up until now, the legal battle over Proposition 8 has too often been defined as a fight over gay and lesbian rights. Yet the stakes are much broader than that. At issue is whether a state, through ballot initiative or other means, can deny rights to a certain class of people that are afforded to others.
In a convincing 136-page opinion, Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker made clear that states cannot deny rights in this manner. In striking down California's law that bans same-sex marriage, he stated: "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."
Walker's opinion is hardly the last word on the fate of Proposition 8. Expected appeals will surely take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But if nothing else, Walker's ruling should lay to rest some of the more pernicious arguments used in defense of Proposition 8 – particularly the claim, put forth by witness David Blankenhorn at the trial, that children are harmed when raised by gay and lesbian couples.
"The evidence shows beyond doubt that parents' genders are irrelevant to children's development concerns," Walker wrote. "… Blankenhorn's opinions are not supported by reliable evidence or methodology …"
Proponents of Proposition 8 also argued that California has an interest in promoting stable households, and that opposite-sex marriages promote such stability.
Bunk, Walker said in effect.
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