As most everyone will have heard by now, Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (first nominated by Ronald Reagan, blocked over Democratic concerns he would be insensitive to gay and lesbian issues, and later confirmed after renomination by George H. W. Bush) issued his ruling (available as a PDF here, among other places)in Perry v. Schwarzenegger today, striking down the infamous Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban on the grounds that California had no legitimate interest in preventing same-sex marriage, that to do so was a violation of the due process and equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution, and that sexual orientation was a “suspect classification,” meaning approximately that almost any state or federal law or government act which discriminates on that basis is more or less presumptively invalid.
This is an enormously important decision, no less so for the fact that it should always have been self-evident. The celebrations going on tonight in California, and around the country, are well-deserved; I’m raising a glass to toast the victory, myself.
The question now, however, is how this ruling will fare on appeal. Its next stop is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in recent history has been known for leaning left; there’s no completely reliable way to predict what they’ll do, but it seems most likely they’ll affirm Judge Walker’s decision. Then — a year or two from now — it goes to the Supreme Court.
SCotUS is, of course, the real question. I haven’t read the entirety of the Perry decision, and I’m not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt, but to me it seemed airtight; and at least some of the lawyers I know have agreed with me on that. But there is a solid bloc of four Justices who are staunchly opposed to GLBT rights in any form, and airtight reasoning by a lower court may not be sufficient to keep them from finding a pretext on which to oppose the ruling, so as many important things seem to, it will likely come down to Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote (assuming, of course, that by the time the case reaches the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan is on the bench but the composition of the court has not otherwise changed).