United States: Court victory for equal rights

On August 4, California’s ban on same-sex marriages was ruled unconstitutional by federal judge Vaughn Walker. However, religious fundamentalist and anti-queer groups have indicated that they will appeal the ruling.

On August 6, Walker granted a stay on the implementation of his ruling, meaning lesbian and gay couples are still unable to marry in California.

Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown have both argued against the stay and for the ruling to be implemented immediately.

The first 4200 same-sex marriages in California took place in the three months following San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s February 2004 decision to grant same-sex marriage licences. However, the courts ruled Newsom’s decision in violation of Californian law.

In June 2008, same-sex marriage was legalised, allowing a further 18,000 same-sex couples to marry. However, right-wing religious extremists waged a campaign for a referendum proposal, Proposition 8, outlawing same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 was passed, receiving 52% of votes in the November 2008 referendum.

Lesbian and gay rights activists challenged Proposition 8 in court, resulting in Walker’s ruling “that Proposition 8 violates [the plaintiff’s] due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8”. It was therefore in violation of the federal constitution.