Burbank residents Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami — who with a lesbian couple are challenging Proposition 8 — could claim a victory Wednesday after a U.S. District judge ruled the voter-approved law was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional under the federal due process and equal protection clauses, writing 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."
With the emotional high of the ruling subsiding to what legal experts say will almost surely by a multi-year trek to the U.S. Supreme Court, opponents of Proposition 8 this week were settling back into the planning and waiting phases.
Reached by phone on Friday amid the backdrop of lingering jubilation and court motions to stay Walker's ruling, Katami said he and his longtime partner were in transition.
"We were plugged into the case, and now we're trying to get plugged back into life," Katami said.
In an interview in February, the gay Burbank couple said Proposition 8 was too troubling of an affront on their rights to allow it to stand, particularly after they had built a relationship together and fallen in love like any other couple.
After the ruling, the couple were asked at a press conference if they planned to get married as soon as possible, to which Katami replied, "I need to have time to order a cake."
Within the 136-page decision, the court held that the ban failed "to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."
Following the line of questioning Walker presented during the closing arguments back in June, the court ruled that "the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples."
The judge granted a stay preventing the further enforcement of Proposition 8.
Walker's decision is expected to be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Los Angeles-based American Foundation for Equal Rights funded the litigation and the hiring of former Solicitor General Ted Olson, a conservative, and noted litigator David Boies, who squared off against Olson in Bush v. Gore, to represent the two couples.
"The Olson-Boies team went with a broad attack," said Doug NeJaime, an associate professor at Loyola Law School, who added that the ruling could wind up having far-reaching implications.
"A decision based on due process and equal protection would have an impact on states such as California, Washington and New Jersey, which have comprehensive domestic partnerships."
The California Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 in May 2008 that gays and lesbians were entitled to marry under the state constitution. Voters passed Proposition 8 six months later amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
"We understand that this decision is just the beginning, and we're on the way to the Supreme Court," Zarrillo said at the press conference after the ruling.