Toward marriage equality

Facts trump bigotry in Proposition 8 case

Who’s hurt by same-sex marriage? The answer, Judge Vaughn Walker determined in his decision last week overturning Proposition 8, is: nobody.

What’s important to note here is that this isn’t just Walker’s opinion; it’s a fact established at trial. There supporters of Proposition 8 were unable to come up with any examples of real harm—as opposed to, say, insult to religious belief—caused by same-sex marriage.

Proponents said same-sex marriage was contrary to the purpose of marriage, which is procreation. Not so, Walker said, pointing out—as was stated at trial—that many married heterosexual couples choose not to have children but are no less married for that.

Proponents said it was harmful to children, that heterosexual parents are superior. Not so, said experts, offering indisputable evidence that children reared by same-sex parents were just as healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual couples.

Proponents argued that heterosexual marriage was traditional, that Prop 8 was the will of the voters that marriage be solely between a man and a woman, and that gays already had equal rights in the form of civil unions.

But marriage is a fundamental right, Walker ruled. It can’t be denied on the basis of tradition or social attitudes toward homosexuality. And it can’t be legislated away, even if a majority of voters wants to do so.

Yes, civil unions are available, Walker said, but they automatically relegate same-sex couples to a second-class status—and that is unconstitutional.

The case has been appealed. It will be interesting to see how his carefully crafted decision fares in courts up the line. As it stands, Walker’s ruling is grounded in the facts presented at trial. This will make overturning it difficult, though of course not impossible. In the meantime, the judge has issued a historic decision that takes a major step forward in the direction of something that is clearly now inevitable: marriage equality.