U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, chief justice of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, released his verdict in Perry v. Schwarzenegger just now and we've won. The case was brought by American Foundation for Equal Rights and argued by well-known attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, the conservative and liberal lawyers who faced off in Bush v. Gore.
We'll be updating this post throughout the day with statements from the various organizations, celebrities, politicians and LGBT leaders after the jump. Of course, our contributors will be weighing in with their thoughts and photos/reports from the various marriage equality rallies happening across the nation in separate posts filed later.
So what do you think? How are you feeling right now? Do you think this will make a big difference in the fight for marriage equality?
Full decision after the jump.
Note from Jillian: There's a brief summary of the reasoning after the jump too.
Judge Walker said that he found Prop 8 in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the US Constitution. Here's a quick definition of these terms:
Due Process: the gov't may not deny anyone life, liberty or property without due process of the laws.
Equal Protection: the gov't may not deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.
Judge Walker held that the the right to marry for same-sex couples is a fundamental right, the same as for opposite-sex couples. Domestic partnerships do not satisfy the rights of same-sex couples because they were created in order to deny same-sex couples the right to engage in the institution of "marriage," while approximating the benefits of marriage. Domestic partnership is a substitute and inferior institution.
Judge Walker found that, as a fundamental right, the right to marry cannot be denied by law under the Due Process clause; that is, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. He found that there is no such compelling reason. He also went even further, and said that there is no legitimate reason at all, compelling or not.
He said the evidence showed that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are equal in fact, and should be equal in law. The only difference between them is an intangible one: moral disapproval by opponents, and that's not a legitimate reason for a law.
The Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, striking down California's Proposition 8 and finding that it violates the U.S. Constitution by denying gay men and lesbians the fundamental right to marry and denying them equal protection under the law. The ruling reestablishes the equal marriage rights in California that were stripped away by Prop. 8.
The plaintiffs in the case are two couples who want to marry but who were blocked by Prop 8: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.
"We came to court to seek for Kris, Sandy, Paul and Jeff the same right to marry that all other Americans enjoy, and to ensure that they receive equal protection under the law as guaranteed to every American by the Constitution. Through its decision today, the court has acted in the best traditions of a legal system established to uphold the Constitution and the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded," said attorney Theodore B. Olson. "On no less than 14 occasions, the Supreme Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right. This decision recognizes that Proposition 8 denied the plaintiffs, and tens-of-thousands of other Californians, that fundamental constitutional right and treated them unequally."
"The Supreme Court has long held that marriage is a fundamental right. Equal protection under the law is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and this ruling affirms that universal right of every American," plaintiff's attorney David Boies said. "Depriving the fundamental right to marry causes grievous harm to millions of Americans and their children."
"For our entire lives, our government and the law have treated us as unequal. This decision to ensure that our constitutional rights are as protected as everyone else's makes us incredibly proud of our country," Perry said.
"Kris and I have raised four children, own a home and have professional careers. But because of Proposition 8, our family is still not complete. For us, equal rights are about our family having the recognition and protections that other families have," Stier said.
"We just want to get married, just like our friends, family and relatives can. We are thankful to live in a nation of equal laws," Katami said.
"We hope this decision brings us closer to the day when Americans no longer have to fight in court for the rights the Constitution says we all already have. We are grateful that the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies came together to fight for us, and millions of others, so that finally, every American will truly be equal under the law," Zarrillo said.
"This decision follows the founding constitutional principle that every American is to be treated equally under the law. No law may violate the U.S. Constitution, and our courts were established to protect against unfair laws," said American Foundation for Equal Rights Board President Chad Griffin. "Today was an example of our nation living up to its founding ideals."
The American Foundation for Equal Rights brought together Theodore Olson and David Boies, who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore, to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates Americans' constitutional rights by creating two separate classes of people with different laws for each one, contrary to the nation's founding principles, including equal protection under the law.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
"Judge Walker had the great responsibility of deciding whether Proposition 8 violates the Constitution of the United States. He heard in-depth arguments from both sides on fundamental questions of due process, equal protection and freedom from discrimination. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and I am glad that all viewpoints were respected throughout the proceedings. We should also recognize that there will continue to be different points of view in the wake of this decision.
"For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future, and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity.
"Today's decision is by no means California's first milestone, nor our last, on America's road to equality and freedom for all people."
Lorri Jean - LA Gay & Lesbian Center CEO
"Today's historic decision by the federal district court is clearly a milestone victory for all gay, lesbian and bisexual Californians, our families and our friends. But much more than that, it is a resounding affirmation of fundamental American ideals and core principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Almost from our very beginnings, one of the exceptional hallmarks of our nation's progress has been the expansion of our concepts of liberty and justice to include those of us who were not initially considered fully equal, or who were perhaps not even considered at all.
Although it has often taken years of struggle, we have seen profound advancements in the recognition of the full citizenship of women, of African-Americans, and of countless other ethnic, religious and social minorities.
These changes have come about through a continually broadening public understanding of who we all are, and of the common bonds and aspirations that we all share.
And it is also true that throughout our nation's history, the civil advances of the American people have been achieved by many means, including, often, through landmark judicial decisions. The framers of the Constitution, in their wisdom and foresight, recognized that no right of any American should ever be solely a condition of majority approval. And therefore, it has historically been the Constitutional responsibility of our courts to guarantee to all Americans, regardless of their number or popularity, the equal protection of our laws. Just like what has occurred once again today.
But as welcome and significant as today's ruling truly is, it is in no way a final victory...not in the current court case, and certainly not in the ultimate fight for the fully equal treatment of all LGBT Americans. There are more legal challenges, debates and votes to come. Therefore, it is as important as ever that all who support our ultimate goal of full equality continue, through every available avenue and at every opportunity, to persuade those who may not yet be with us.
Over the last 40 years, the advances in the movement for LGBT equality have been extraordinary, but that progress has not been unbroken and there are clearly more obstacles to overcome. But today's decision is yet another signpost as we move ever closer to the day when the ideal of liberty and justice for all is fully realized for LGBT Americans, as it should be for every American, and indeed for everyone everywhere."
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
"Today's decision by the California District Court marks a historic day in the fight for LGBT equality. I am elated by the courage and wisdom demonstrated by District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in his decision to strike down Proposition 8, a law that unfairly targeted and harmed families across California.
"I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation and thanks to David Boies and Ted Olson, who joined together in the common belief that same sex couples should be able to have access to civil marriage and those rights and responsibilities that go with it.
"This is not just a win for same sex couples in California; it's a victory for all of those who believe in full equality for all Americans.
"I hope that members of our State Senate see this decision and decide to do the right thing for same-sex couples in New York."
Geoff Kors - Equality California Executive Director
"We are thrilled with today's ruling, which affirms that the protections enshrined in our U.S. Constitution apply to all Americans and that our dream of equality and freedom deserves protection. Judge Walker has preserved our democracy by ruling that a majority cannot deny a minority group of fundamental freedoms. This is as much a victory for the soul of our nation as it is for the thousands of same-sex couples and their families who will be directly impacted.
"We are truly indebted to Ted Olson and David Boies and to the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We owe Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown a great deal of gratitude for their unprecedented decision not to defend this discriminatory measure. While this is a great success, we also know that the road to restore the freedom to marry could be a long one and that we must do everything in our power to protect this incredible victory. Equality California will do its part by working to elect a governor and attorney general this fall who refuse to spend tax-payer dollars to overturn this decision. We are also ready to battle the National Organization for Marriage this fall to keep their toxic agenda out of our state.
"Finally, together with thousands of volunteers we will keep sharing our stories in communities throughout California so that we continue building public support for the freedom to marry, which is essential to permanently restoring marriage equality in California."
Evan Wolfson - Executive Director Freedom To Marry
"Today's federal ruling strikes down a cruel and unfair constitutional amendment that should never have become law and affirms that the freedom to marry belongs to every American. As the first court to strike down race restrictions on marriage said in 1948, "the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice." There is no gay exception in the Constitution to personal choice and the right to marry, and there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage.
Judge Walker's decision will be appealed and litigation will continue, but what we witnessed in the clear light of his courtroom cannot be erased. The witnesses, evidence, and arguments all demonstrated what we've long known: exclusion from marriage harms committed same-sex couples and their families, while helping no one, and the unjustified and unfair denial of marriage to same-sex couples violates the United States Constitution. The judge's ruling reflects the growing consensus in courtrooms and legislatures across the country, and around the world, that there is simply no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage.
As today's trial court ruling is appealed and defended, there is much left to accomplish across the country. 44 states continue to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and federal marriage discrimination persists. Today's win provides increased momentum to the national movement to end exclusion from marriage. But the courts don't operate in a vacuum, and we must work to maximize our chances of winning down the road. The crucial work of changing hearts and minds, securing the freedom to marry in more states, and ending federal marriage discrimination is more urgent than ever, in order to build on today's momentum and encourage other decision-makers to do the right thing and end exclusion from marriage."
HRC President Joe Solmonese
"After hearing extensive evidence in support of marriage equality, and essentially no defense of the discrimination wrought by Prop 8, Judge Walker reached the same conclusion we have always known to be true - the Constitution's protections are for all Americans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We thank the courageous plaintiff couples, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies for their tremendous efforts leading to today's decision and their ongoing commitment as the case moves forward on appeal. The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work - in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms - until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere."
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey
"This ruling marks a victory for loving, committed couples who want nothing more than the same rights and security as other families. From the start, this has been about basic fairness. Today we celebrate the affirmation of this fundamental principle; tomorrow, we are back out there sharing our personal stories and having conversations with Californians and people all across the country about why this matters and who we are.
"The tide is turning nationwide in favor of marriage equality, but our work is far from over. Today's ruling is just a beginning step in what will likely be a long process, yet we are confident that fairness will prevail. Our conversations are breaking down barriers and helping to transform our country."
Bernard Cherkasov: Chief Executive Officer Equality Illinois
Today, for the first time, a federal court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution. Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that California's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
While the decision of the federal district court overturns Proposition 8, it is probably not the final word on the matter. The decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. This exciting development brings us one step closer to full LGBT equality, but the final outcome in the matter may still be years away and same-sex couples in every corner of the country are still being denied federal recognition of their relationships.
MassEquality Interim Executive Director Paula Herrington
"This is a tremendous victory in the movement for justice and equality. When the claims of those who oppose our right to marry are examined judiciously, they quickly fall apart. This case featured the collaboration of two legal superstars from opposite ends our cultural divide: Democrat David Boies who represented Al Gore before the Supreme Court after the 2000 presidential election, and Republican Ted Olsen who represented George Bush. In this case, they shared one thing in common: a willingness to look beyond bumper sticker slogans to show what really happens when families are denied legal connection and protection.
"We hope that the moral clarity of Judge Walker's ruling provides comfort to the millions of Californians -- and other Americans --who have suffered as a result of mean-spirited and divisive ballot campaigns that have denied them access to the basic right of marriage."
Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler
"Today, we celebrate the court's decision that upheld the rights of liberty and equality enshrined in our Constitution. Judge Walker reaffirmed that marriage equality would do nothing but benefit our children. Congratulations are in order to the plaintiffs in this care, including Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who can now be married like any other parent."
Jennifer C. Pizer: National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal
"This is historic. Last summer, Judge Walker asked for a detailed factual record so he could assess the public interests supposedly served by Proposition 8. The meticulous assessment of the Prop 8 defenders' case today makes clear: there's no there, there. In holding that Prop 8 cannot stand because it violates the equal protection and due process rights of California's lesbian and gay couples, this decision adds to the growing consensus in courts and legislatures across the country that there are no good reasons for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Instead, the evidence and legal arguments proved once again that withholding marriage harms devoted same-sex couples and their families, and helps no one.
The court examined the range of excuses used by anti-gay groups to justify this government discrimination against same-sex couples. The testimony of leading experts on everything from child development to adult psychology to the public costs of anti-gay discrimination laid bare the misinformation and outright lies that anti-gay groups have been pushing on the public.
This thorough review of both sides' evidence vindicates the rights of LGBT people not only to marry based on love and commitment, as heterosexuals do, but to be treated equally and fairly by their government more generally. Just as past marriage victories laid the foundation for today's important win, the court's preparation of a detailed record for the Court of Appeals provides a potent tool for other legal cases and the many, ongoing educational campaigns. It doubtless will help more people see that anti-gay discrimination in marriage is destructive and unjustifiable.
No one is under any illusion that today's decision is the end of this fight. Prop 8's proponents have made clear they will appeal. But today, we appreciate the clear and detailed analysis in this decision that will frame the case as it moves forward, and we congratulate the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies, and of the City and County of San Francisco, for presenting such a thorough and compelling case in court."
GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto
"GLAD's case and Perry seek to cure two important but different injustices. Gill is not a right-to-marry case, since we represent couples who are already married. Rather, it is a case about federal recognition, challenging DOMA's denial of these marriages for purposes of all federal laws. DOMA is synonymous with disapproval of gay people and our families, and we seek to end Congress's different treatment of married people based simply on sexual orientation.
"No matter the outcome of these federal court cases, it is still imperative to continue working on a local level to secure respect for and undo all state-based discrimination against gay and lesbian families."
Rick Jacobs: Founder of the Courage Campaign
"This ruling is an historic milestone for millions of loving families, for all who have fought to realize the dream of equality under the law, and for our nation as a whole. While today concludes the first step in a legal process that could take up to two years, Judge Walker's ruling is a landmark victory in America's centuries long war against discrimination, and the result of months of extraordinary work by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, and courageous plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo."
"History has already taught us that the biggest challenge for the cause of equality exists not just in courtrooms, but in the hearts and minds of the American people. That's why the public must hear the testimony presented in Judge Walker's courtroom and that of the millions of loving LGBT families who have come to understand the destructive power of discrimination first-hand. It is clear that when presented with the truth about the millions of families who will be impacted by this decision, most Americans do not support the debunked myths and toxic rhetoric spewed by intolerant fringe groups like NOM."
James Esseks: Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project
"Today's decision is a huge victory for the LGBT people of America. For the first time, a federal court has conducted a trial and found that there is absolutely no reason to deny same-sex couples the fairness and dignity of marriage. At the same time, we know that this is not the end. In order to give this case the best possible chance of success as it moves through the appeals courts, we need to show that America is ready for same-sex couples to marry by continuing to seek marriage and other relationship protections in states across the country. It's simply not fair, and not legal, to continue to exclude committed same-sex couples from marriage."
John Podesta: President and CEO of the Center for American Progress
"Judge Walker's decision reaffirms the Constitution's command that all Americans must receive 'equal protection of the laws.' Prop 8 is incompatible with our Constitution and a long line of precedent rejecting laws that single out a certain class of Americans for disfavored legal status. Today's decision does nothing more than restore the Constitution's promise to millions of American couples. Because Constitutional precedent so clearly rejects Prop 8, I have every confidence that this decision will be upheld on appeal."
National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell
"Religion-based bigotry should never outweigh constitutionally-based guarantees of equal protection, especially when thousands of California families are at risk. Judge Walker unequivocally affirmed that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right protected under the Constitution and that it includes lesbian and gay couples. It's a great day for same-sex couples, and it's a great day for all Americans who value equality under the law."
"As the case inevitably finds its way to the US Supreme Court, I am reminded of the 2000 campaign when it was commonly held that the two candidates, Al Gore and George W. Bush, were virtually indistinguishable. Imagine what a different world we'd be living in if this case were going to ultimately land in the laps of a Court that was headed by a Gore appointee instead of Chief Justice John Roberts. Elections matter, whether it's the razor thin elections that resulted in two terms for George W. Bush, the election that gave us the spiteful Prop. 8, or the one this November that could hand over Congress to Republican control. Republicans will certainly turn back every gain that LGBT Americans have seen under the Obama Administration"
One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison
"Today's decision is a victory for all Americans who believe in fundamental fairness. This is the first step toward remedying the pain done by California's Proposition 8 and recognizing gay and lesbian couples who simply want to marry the person they love. As we celebrate with Californians, we recognize the work is far from over. In order to make equality a reality for all Americans, we must continue to have conversations with our friends and families about the importance of marriage for same-sex couples."
"These plaintiffs are law-abiding, family-oriented, tax-paying citizens whose privacy was invaded, and whose dignity was affronted, by a misguided and unconstitutional law.
"Their victory at trial shows that our courts still play a vital role in safeguarding the rights of minorities from majorities who misunderstand them. But more importantly, it proves the power of personal stories. Equal marriage rights are ultimately about people's families, and during the trial, their personal need for legal recognition of their relationships came through loud and clear.
"After Matt came out to me, he once asked me if I thought gay couples would ever be allowed to get married. I told him I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime, but it probably would in his. It's so sad, and ironic, that it turned out the other way. But this case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true."
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios
"More and more Americans are supporting equality, and it is the stories of same-sex couples that are leading that charge across the nation. Today's decision comes after same-sex couples from across California shared their personal stories with Judge Vaughn Walker and the public, helping to show that all loving and committed couples - straight and gay - should have the same opportunity to take care of and be responsible for each other.
"We urge media to highlight the couples impacted by today's decision to grant them the liberty and equality upon which our nation was founded."
Kate Kendell: Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights
"Judge Walker's ruling is complete vindication for the most bedrock principles this nation is build on: a majority cannot strip a minority of fundamental rights, we do not permit bare prejudice or even discomfort to provide the basis for sweeping and damaging discrimination, and protecting loving families and couples is the humane and just thing to do. Prop 8 was a major stain on the kind of nation we strive to be, good riddance."
Cyndi Lauper: Singer and True Colors Fund head
Gay and lesbian couples have long struggled for acceptance and the ability to marry the person they love and want to build a family with. Today's landmark ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional is a testament to the fundamentals on which this great country was built and validates that the discrimination gay couples face must come to an end. We as a society should be embracing these couples and helping them make the lifelong commitment to each other that many of us straight people take for granted each and every day. This decision is a major step in the right direction towards equality.
On behalf of the True Colors Fund and the Give a Damn Campaign, I want to commend and thank Chad Griffin and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the legal team headed by Ted Olson and David Boies, and the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, for their leadership and courage in standing up for equality and fairness.
Morgan Meneses-Sheets: Executive Director of Equality Maryland
"The ruling today demonstrates what we've long known: exclusion from marriage harms committed same-sex couples and their families, while helping no one, and the unjustified and unfair denial of marriage to same-sex couples violates the United States Constitution. The judge's ruling reflects the growing consensus in courtrooms and legislatures across the country, and around the world, that there is simply no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage."
Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)
"I applaud Judge Walker's decision to overturn Proposition 8. No one should be denied the opportunity to choose his or her spouse. It is a basic human right. It is a deeply personal decision. Throughout history, our country has made great strides moving forward with equality and civil rights for all. Proposition 8 set this country back by attacking gay couples who only wanted to share lifelong obligations and responsibilities. It sent the wrong message to society, was unconstitutional and it deserved to be overturned."
PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby
"Today is, in no uncertain terms, historic. With this monumental ruling, all families win and at last have the security of knowing that all of our loved ones - both straight and gay - have the same freedom to marry. Today's ruling sent the message that equality means equality for all."
The decision issued today in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger contends that Proposition 8 violates the Constitutional rights of equal protection and due process. In the decision, U.S. District Judge Vaughan Walker concludes that, "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. 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."
California Attorney General Brown
"In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it: Proposition 8 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest."
Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper
"The principles of individual liberty and the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness are core American values. The ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which secures the freedom to marry for all, speaks to the power of making a conservative case for equality. Log Cabin Republicans thanks Ted Olson, David Boies and the American Foundation for Equal Rights for their work and today's victory."