A US federal judge has struck down the infamous Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage in California, describing it as unconstitutional.
The ban was put in place by 52% of California voters in a state referendum in November 2008.
On Wednesday, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the ban violates the US Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process and that “the state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without an accompanying secular purpose”.
He further ruled that although the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8, “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections”.
Walker said that there is no legitimate reason to ban same-sex marriage as “same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage”.
In his ruling the judge further noted that the plaintiffs did not seek the recognition of a new or additional right.
“To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as ‘the right to same-sex marriage’ would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy – namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages,” he said.
He also ruled that domestic partnerships “do not satisfy California’s obligation to allow plaintiffs to marry”.
In response to the historic judgement, the White House issued a statement saying that President Obama has always opposed Proposition 8 because “it is divisive and discriminatory” and that “he will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans”.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the ruling “affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves”.
Walker is expected to rule on another application this Friday which asks that he suspends the granting of same-marriages licenses until the appeals process is complete.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have said that they will appeal the ruling and it is anticipated that the matter will be ultimately finalised in the US Supreme Court.
Joe Solmonese, President of HRC – the largest LGBT rights group in the US – acknowledged that despite the importance of the judgment the fight is not yet over.
“The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work – in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms – until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere,” he said.