NOW applauds the decision of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage instituted by California’s Proposition 8. Discriminatory legislation such as Proposition 8 has no place in a nation dedicated to equal rights for all people. Same-sex couples in California and all over the United States can celebrate this ruling that recognizes their civil rights and human dignity.
In May 2008, NOW rejoiced with the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community when the California Supreme Court declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of its constitution. From June to November 2008, 18,000 same-sex couples were finally able to celebrate their marriages as well as have their love and commitments to one another recognized by the state. However, the court’s ruling was met with anti-LGBT backlash from the conservative, religious right. Most vocal in their opposition was the Protect Marriage group, which petitioned for a ballot proposition that would restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples in California’s constitution, thus overturning the California Supreme Court’s decision. Despite fervent efforts by the LGBT community and its allies, including demonstrations by NOW and California NOW, Proposition 8 narrowly passed with 52 percent of Californians voting in its favor.
Since the passage of Proposition 8, NOW has recommitted itself to upholding the rights of same-sex couples in California and protecting them from the whims of the religious right. NOW, California NOW and Feminist Majority submitted an amici curiae brief to the Supreme Court of California, explaining how women in particular would be harmed by this unjust legislation, as women make up two-thirds of legally recognized same-sex couples in Massachusetts and nearly two-thirds of civil unions in Vermont. NOW also staunchly defended the position that state constitutions are meant to defend the rights of minorities, even (or especially) when the majority threatens to eradicate them.
Judge Walker has told California that the state will protect the rights of the minority and that the majority cannot revoke those rights because of malice and bigotry. In declaring the right of same-sex couples to marry, he has affirmed their rights to equal protection and privacy. Unfortunately, the fight is not over. Charles J. Cooper, attorney for the defendants, has said that he will appeal Judge Walker’s ruling and that he will go as far as the U. S. Supreme Court if necessary. However, when Walker’s decision is appealed, NOW will continue to be committed to promoting and upholding the rights of same-sex couples everywhere. Meanwhile, today we celebrate this victory for the LGBT community.