Today, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. Proposition 8 is an amendment to the state’s constitution and defines marriage as between one man and one woman. It was passed by popular vote. In his ruling, Judge Walker, who is himself gay, stated:
“Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the judge wrote. “Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.” (Source: Los Angeles Times)
A full version of the judge’s opinion, in PDF format, can be obtained here.
Naturally, this decision is being praised by gay marriage advocates across the country. Similarly, gay marriage opponents are outraged at activist judges and the will of the people being thwarted. Legal teams for both the plaintiff and the defendants in this case had already vowed to appeal the court’s decision, so the next step for this case is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court, if that lofty bench decides to hear the case.
First off, let’s deal with the activist judge claim. Vaughn Walker was appointed by George H.W. Bush. He was originally nominated by none other than Ronald Reagan, but his nomination was stalled over the fact he represented the United States Olympic Committee in a suit over use of the term “Gay Olympics.”
That’s right. He was representing the USOC, who was against the term “Gay Olympics” being co-opted by a non-affiliated group.
If he’s an activist judge, we can blame the most lauded conservative president in history for his appointment.
Now, on to the merits of the case.
This isn’t about the will of the people, really. I’ve heard both conservatives and liberals use the “will of the people” argument any time it comes down to legislation they support. I’ve also heard both groups point out, correctly, that the Constitution is there to protect the minority against a tyrannical majority.
So what’s it about?