Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Openly-Gay Federal Judge Vaughn Walker Invalidates California Proposition 8; Utah Gays Rejoice, LDS Church And Utah Lawmakers Critical

On August 4th, 2010, U.S. 9th Circuit District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who Wikipedia identifies as being openly gay, invalidated California Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state. In the 136-page decision (an additional source of the ruling is HERE), Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution's clauses regarding equal protection and due process rights. The judge claimed that Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation. But Judge Walker also agreed to stay implementation of his decision until August 6th, at which time he will decide then whether to issue a longer stay after hearing additional legal arguments by both sides.

Prior to the judge's ruling, both sides had vowed that if they lost they would appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the last step before the U.S. Supreme Court. Experts said it's likely that either the 9th Circuit or Judge Walker will extend the stay through the appeal, which would continue the ban on same-sex marriage for its duration. Interestingly enough, a comment posted on FaithPromotingRumor revealed that there are four full-time LDS judges on the 9th Circuit; Richard Paez, Jay Bybee, Milan Smith, and Randy Smith. Chances are mathematically good that at least one of them will hear the case.

-- Key California media sources include the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, KNBC Channel 4 (with video links), and KTVU Channel 2.

-- Utah media sources include the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, and KSL Channel 5. The Deseret News also published a timeline to the Prop 8 ruling. KSTU Channel 13 is running an unscientific poll on the ruling HERE. KSTU news video embedded below:

Hundreds of gays peacefully marched around Utah's Capitol building in celebration of the decision. Both of Utah's leading gay rights groups rejoiced at the decision. Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, applauded the decision. “Equality Utah has always believed that the Constitution does cover gay and transgender people,” she said. “As an organization, we support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, which includes the right to marry.” Valerie Larabee, the executive director for Utah Pride Center, had only one word to describe the reaction: elation. Larabee believes the ruling will generate kitchen-table conversation among Utahns and the dialogue will grow throughout the state.

But the nearly 1100 comments posted to the KSL story indicate that most Utahns are unhappy with the ruling. Most noteworthy is the reaction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who issued the following statement critical of the decision, although they continue to call for mutual respect and civility on both sides:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today's decision. California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree. Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.

"We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution—marriage.

"There is no doubt that today's ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

The LDS Church did not make a direct contribution to, the Prop 8 campaign. But it did send a letter to each LDS congregation in California asking Mormons to give time and money to support it. A church spokesman told media that the church estimated the value of its non-monetary, in-kind contributions at $189,900 — less than 1 percent of the total funds donated to the "Yes on 8" campaign, which raised $40 million.

Others chimed in with their own criticism. Utah U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch issued a statement saying "One federal judge trumped seven million voters by making up a right that is not in the Constitution. This is what happens when judges make up the Constitution as they go along." Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups says this ruling is something he doesn't believe Utahns will want to see stand, urging Utahns to stand up and say not only was the judge wrong, but the people of California were right and we agree with them.


Jen said...

To clarify: Wikipedia did not state that Judge Walker was openly gay. Wikipedia made reference to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, which stated that it was an "open secret" that Walker was gay. Walker has never publicly stated his sexual orientation. It's interesting to note, however, that he once represented the United States Olympic Committee in a lawsuit against the Gay Olympics, which forced the latter to change its name to the Gay Games. Partially as a result of that lawsuit, several prominent Democrats (among them Nancy Pelosi) opposed his nomination to the Federal bench by (of all people) President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Ximz said...

1100 comments on a KSL forum must mean that this decision is wrong.