As Taylor posted about below, today a federal judge in San Fransisco ruled that Proposition 8–which banned same sex marriage in the state of California–was unconstitutional. The ruling highlights that:
Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.
Furthermore, the court found that Proposition 8 violates the due process and equal protection rights of same sex couples. One of the things that needs to be highlighted is that the judge in the case was originally nominated by the-deity-of-all-Republicans President Reagan and therefore cannot be deemed ‘simply another liberal activist member of the judiciary’. What’s even more ironic is that his original nomination was opposed by then Rep. Nancy Pelosi because she felt he was too insensitive to gays and lesbians in his work for the US Olympic Committee (this really happened).
The decision is AMAZING and is even better because of the fact that arguing against Prop 8 are the lawyers that represented Bush and Gore in Bush v. Gore from 2000. Yes, that’s right: W’s Solicitor General Ted Olsen is on board for the legalization of same sex marriage and working to make it happen.
What is even more interesting is the series of decisions made in the last few weeks by US District courts. The first was the decision that the Arizona immigration laws are largely unconstitutional; the second the Prop 8 ruling; and the third was a decision in Virginia about healthcare reform.
The decision in Virginia hasn’t received nearly the same attention as the other two – but it is just as important. In an attempt to undermine healthcare reform, Virginia passed a law exempting residents from the health insurance mandate passed by Congress earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with the state law and says that Congress does not have the power to force people to have health insurance. The administration filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit but a judge in VA ruled against the administration and provided the first legal victory against the reform law. The ruling gives credibility to the notion that there is legitimate doubt about whether or not the Commerce clause grants Congress the right to mandate coverage. If this case proceeds – and ultimately this will probably be decided by the Supreme Court – lasting healthcare reform may be far from certain.
Taken together the decisions highlight what a huge role that the judiciary plays in shaping American progress or impeding it (think Citizens United). Judges matter, and their ability to apply the Constitution and support the enormity of rights and opportunities it expresses is forever our greatest advocate. Today was yet another example that the Constitution is on our side in the fight for same sex marriage and that we continue to see progress (albeit wayyyy to slowly).