by Rachel Peck, Fellow,
National Women's Law Center
Wednesday, in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a federal district court judge in California struck down Proposition 8, a voter enacted amendment to the California Constitution which declared that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. The decision is the first to find that a provision limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution.
In his decision, Judge Vaughn Walker found that Proposition 8 violated both the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. In setting out the reasons men and women should be able to marry the person they desire, regardless of that person's sex, the decision drew out important connections between the movement for marriage equality and the movement away from a legally-enforced notion that marriage requires men and women to play particular, distinct gender roles. Judge Walker recognized that views of marriage have changed drastically over time and these earlier, discarded views are not a valid basis for current marriage law.