Aug 5, 2010 8:06 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
A federal judge overturned California's gay marriage ban Wednesday with an unequivocal ruling that could eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's strongly worded opinion in the landmark case - the first in a federal court to examine if states can lawfully limit marriage to a man and a woman - touched off a celebration outside the courthouse. Later in the day, a jubilant crowd marched through the city that has long been a haven for gays.
The ruling met immediate criticism from Mormon and Catholic church leaders and cheers from gay-rights advocates.
As word of the verdict spread, about 300 people assembled in a West Hollywood park waving rainbow gay pride flags. In New York City, a crowd of about 150 gathered outside a lower Manhattan courthouse. They carried signs saying "Our Love Wins" as organizers read portions of the 136-page decision aloud.
"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.
The judge added in the conclusion of the 136-page opinion: "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."
His ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco seeking to invalidate the law as an unlawful infringement on the civil rights of gay men and lesbians. The landmark case is expected to be appealed and could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.