A judge struck down California's same-sex marriage ban as an unconstitutional violation of gay couples' civil rights, but a pending appeal of the landmark ruling could prevent gay weddings from resuming in the state any time soon.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the voter-approved ban known as Proposition 8 Wednesday, declaring that limiting marriage to a man and a woman serves no legitimate purpose and is an "artifact" rooted in "unfounded stereotypes and prejudices."
"Rather than being different, same-sex and opposite-sex unions are, for all purposes relevant to California law, exactly the same," Walker wrote in an unequivocal and strongly worded 136-page ruling. "The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples."
While the ruling affects only California, the appeal will go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over nine Western states. The outcome there eventually could force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether gays have a constitutional right to wed.
"This ruling, if allowed to stand, threatens not only Prop 8 in California but the laws in 45 other states that define marriage as one man and one woman," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which helped fund the 2008 campaign that led to the ban's passage.