California gay marriage ruling has candidates quickly taking sides
With a pair of too-close-to-call political campaigns heating up in California — for governor and for Democrat Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat — the candidates wasted no time in staking out their positions after a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s ban on gay marriages.
In a case that most believe the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker on Wednesday ruled that California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because it unfairly singled out gay and lesbian couples as being forbidden to legally wed, violating their rights to due process and equal protection under the Constitution.
For Democrat Jerry Brown, who is running against Republican Meg Whitman for governor, the case offered a natural opening: As the state’s attorney general, he has refused to defend Proposition 8 in court, instead filing a brief with the state Supreme Court to overturn it in a move that raised eyebrows among legal scholars but won him support among gay and civil rights rights activists.
“In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it,” Brown said in a written statement that was released by his office about half an hour after Walker’s ruling became public. “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.”
As a former eBay CEO and political novice, Whitman has so far had no public role in the fight over gay marriage in California, but her campaign office issued a statement reflecting her position on the hot-button issue: “Meg supported Proposition 8 and believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Meg also strongly supports California’s civil union laws. Today’s ruling is the first step in a process that will continue.”
For her part Boxer, a powerful liberal voice in the Senate who is facing the toughest re-election fight of her political career against Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina, voiced full approval. “This historic decision is a step forward in the march toward equal rights and reflects a growing legal consensus that marriage equality is protected by the U.S. Constitution,” Boxer said through her office.
Fiorina, the conservative former Hewlett-Packard CEO who trails Boxer by only five points in her first run for political office, not surprisingly took the opposite side, suggesting that Walker had no business overturning the will over the voters.
“The people of California spoke clearly on this issue at the ballot box in 2008,” Fiorina said in a written statement. “That decision is being challenged through our court system and while I don’t agree with the judge’s ruling today, this is one in what will be a multi-step process.”
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Fred Prouser (Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles in April); REUTERS/ Robert Galbraith (Carly Fiorina votes in the Republican primary in California in June); REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (Same-sex marriage supporters and opponetns prior to the start of trial outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco, January 11, 2010.)