A major victory for advocates of gay marriage -- a federal judge in San Francisco has overturned California's ban on same-sex unions, ruling that the ban violates the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses.
California voters approved the ban in 2008 in what was known as Proposition 8, just five months after the state's Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. But two gay couples filed a lawsuit, saying the ban violated their civil rights. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed, writing in a 136-page ruling:
"Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, 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."
But gay couples in California should not run out to the Justice of the Peace just yet -- despite the ruling, gay marriage will not be allowed to resume as the appeals process moves forward. Legal experts expect it to eventually wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which could decide once and for all if same-sex marriage is legal.
Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.