Two couples who challenged Proposition 8, California’s voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage, joined their attorneys and other supporters in San Francisco today to voice their approval shortly after a federal judge overturned the initiative.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Prop. 8 violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment and due process, but he also issued a temporary stay suspending the ruling.
Prop. 8, approved by California voters as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, provided that, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Berkeley resident Kris Perry, who joined her partner Sandy Stier as one of the two couples who challenged the initiative, said the “system worked” with Walker’s ruling.
“Our courts are supposed to protect our constitutional rights, and today they did,” Perry said. “Today every American should be proud.”
Stier added, “Today we can go to sleep knowing that our hopes and our dreams to…have a legal marriage can be realized and are close to becoming true.”
The proponents of Prop. 8 and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, asked for a stay of the ruling in a filing late Tuesday while they appeal Walker’s decision.
The lawyers for the two couples have until Friday to respond to the request. If Walker declines to continue the stay, Prop. 8 supporters can ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant a stay while the case is appealed. The appeal could take months and could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jeff Zarrillo, of Burbank, who joined his partner Paul Katami as the other couple in the case, said, “We understand that this decision is only the beginning.”
The lead attorneys for the couples were Ted Olson and David Boies, who were on opposite sides of a legal battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore over the results of the 2000 presidential election but joined forces in representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
Boies joked that if the case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court, “Ted and I have a deal that he’s going to get the five justices that voted for him, and I’ll get the four that voted for me.”
Boies added that the judge in this case made it clear that, “The fundamental right to marry is already set in a handful of Supreme Court precedents.”
Olson said the legal team will argue against the stay but declined to guess when or where the case will finally be decided.
“We will say that this judge has found, after the most exhaustive trial you can imagine, that the constitutional rights of these individuals are being violated every day,” he said.
“I don’t want to predict when anything is going to happen next, but we’re going to fight to vindicate these constitutional rights as quickly as we possibly can. We now have the confidence that all of the facts that could be presented by the proponents of Prop. 8 gave the judge no single reason to continue this discrimination.”
Olson said he appreciated that the ruling happened at a federal court in San Francisco.
“It really means a lot because San Francisco has always been there fighting for gay and lesbian individuals,” he said.
Various opponents of same-sex marriage released statements decrying the ruling, including Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
“With a stroke of his pen, Judge Walker has overruled the votes and values of 7 million Californians who voted for marriage as one man and one woman,” he said. “This ruling, if allowed to stand, threatens not only Prop. 8 in California but the laws in 45 other states that define marriage as one man and one woman.”
Boies disagreed, saying the decision did not strip anyone of their rights.
“The court held there is no harm to anyone’s rights as the result of this decision,” he said. “In fact, it increases the stability and value of marriage in our society.”
He said the opinion was a “careful, thorough analysis” of why gay marriage bans are discriminatory and “anti-American.”
“I would challenge anybody…to read this opinion and then tell me what they disagree with, what they have left to say, to not to just ignore the opinion but take a look at it,” he said.