Prop. 8 Ruling Matters Less than Judge's Findings

Demonstrators placed signs on a statue of President Abe Lincoln in front of San Francisco City Hall after the California State Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco, Tuesday, May 26, 2009.The court upheld the ban on gay marriage voters approved when they voted in favor of Proposition 8 last fall. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

AP / CBS

A federal judge today ruled that California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. The landmark case could ultimately land before the Supreme Court.

However, the thing to remember here is that the ruling itself matters less than the facts Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker finds.

The appeals court can consider the law de novo - from scratch. But it owes significant deference to Judge Walker's findings of facts -- which are, from the perspective of proponents of Prop. 8, pretty devastating.

Walker seems to go out of his way to try and demolish the secular arguments against same-sex marriage:

1. Marriage is and has been a civil matter, subject to religious intervention only when requested by the intervenors.

2. California, like every other state, doesn't require that couples wanting to marry be able to procreate.

3. Marriage as an institution has changed over time; women were given equal status; interracial marriage was formally legalized; no fault divorce made it easier to dissolve marriages.

4. California has eliminated marital obligations based on gender.

5. Same-sex love and intimacy "are well-documented in human history."

6. Sexual orientation is a fundamental characteristic of a human being.

7. Prop 8 proponents' "assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence."

8. There is no evidence that sexual orientation is chosen, nor than it can be changed.

9. California has no interest in reducing the number of gays and lesbians in its population.

10. "Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital union."

11. "Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals."

12. "Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage, and marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.

The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships."

13. "Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages."


The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is CBS News' chief political consultant. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

  • Marc Ambinder

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