Judge Walker released his decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger this afternoon, and I spent much of the evening reading about two-thirds of the 136-page PDF file. (I read the first half, then realized it was getting late and skipped ahead to the last ten pages or so; I'll go back and read the rest later.)
I have lots I'll want to say about it after I finish reading it (I'm copying quotes from half the pages), but most of my comments so far can be summed up by saying:
Walker says pretty much everything I could have wanted him to say, including clearly and briefly articulating a bunch of stuff that's often said on liberal blogs but that hasn't been said very often in court decisions.
And his conclusion is that Prop 8 is unconstitutional (that's the US Constitution, not the CA one) on both due process and equal protection grounds, just as the plaintiffs had argued.
He has, of course, issued a temporary stay of his ruling because of the planned appeal—but, interestingly, the temporary stay is (as I understand it) only until he decides whether to issue a longer-term stay that will last until the appeal is done. I'm not sure whether that's standard procedure or not.
The SF Weekly has a nifty article about an attempt to get married during the nine minutes between when Walker issued the ruling and when he issued the stay; unfortunately, the attempt failed. Great try, though.
CNN has an FAQ about what happens next. Short version: the Yes on 8 people will appeal to the next federal court up the chain; then whichever side loses that appeal will likely appeal directly to the US Supreme Court. It could be another year or two before that process finishes playing out and SCOTUS issues a decision.
Another SF Weekly piece: a nice (though fairly long) compendium of sharp language from Walker's decision. If you want some highlights (some of them a wee tad bit snarky) without having to read the whole thing, check out that posting.
The main thing I wanna say right now is that Walker's writeup bolsters my previous impression that the defendant-intervenors (the pro-Prop-8 people) weren't even trying. Their attempted defense was, in various ways, ludicrously bad. (Walker says a couple of times that they mounted a strong defense, but I think he must have written that with tongue in cheek.) So I still think that their strategy was:
- Argue that gay and lesbian people aren't a suspect class, and therefore...
- ...that all that's needed to keep Prop 8 constitutional is a rational basis for the state to okay it; also...
- ...that the Prop 8 people don't need to actually supply a rational basis, just convince the judge that someone could conceivably come up with one.
- Oh, and along the way, toss in some vague halfhearted attempts to justify their position, ranging from inexpert “experts” whose testimony partly supported the plaintiffs, to incoherent arguments about procreation, to saying “I don't know” to the question of what harm same-sex marriage would do.
I mean, really: if one side in a legal case presents very little evidence, doesn't really try to rebut the other side's evidence, and tells the judge they don't need to present evidence, it makes it hard for the judge to rule in their favor on the basis of evidence. I gather that their legal team was pretty sharp, which suggests to me that they felt they just didn't need to present a coherent case.
Anyway. Regardless of how it came about, I'm immensely pleased with Judge Walker's decision. The outcome of the appeals is by no means predetermined; I gather there are still several grounds on which higher courts could overrule this decision. But I think that the decision itself is probably just about the best I could have imagined.