When 52.3% of California voters passed Proposition 8 in 2008, this paper took the position that it was troubling that such a narrow majority could use the levers of this state's direct democracy system to limit the rights of a minority.
While we still hold that opinion, it appears proponents of the ballot measure may have actually done the gay and lesbian community an odd favor.
As the ruling of U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker so potently pointed out this week in overturning Proposition 8, the reasoning used to limit marriage to heterosexual couples lacks "any rational justification." In his 136-page ruling, Walker said that "the evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples."
Moral and religious views have been used throughout this nation's history to justify what everyone now considers to be hurtful, discriminatory means of subjugation. Each time, judicial prudence or legislative courage was required to rebuke and reverse the practices of slavery, the disenfranchisement of women voters, or Jim Crow laws, to name a few.
Legal experts have noted that the scope and relatively lopsided court battle in favor of Proposition 8 opponents give Walker's ruling a strong chance of holding up against appellate panels and, most likely, the U.S. Supreme Court.
And this is where supporters of equal marriage rights can take solace, and perhaps even be grateful for Proposition 8. Because it is in the legal wrangling over this controversial law that gays and lesbians could very well see the undoing of the discrimination that keeps them as second-class citizens.
It has been said time and again that no matter how the federal judges rule, the losing side will continue to push the legal battle to the Supreme Court, where a decision to uphold Walker's initial premise would lay waste to absurd arguments that heterosexual marriage preserves natural procreation and healthier children. As the trial in San Francisco so blatantly pointed out, the so-called "traditional" values and arguments are beyond antiquated. This is not an issue rooted in changing modern values. This is a federal issue of long-accepted discrimination, and the courage of a few — be it prudent federal jurists, ambitious attorneys or a gay couple in Burbank — to obliterate its foundations.