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Sacramentans were expectedly divided following Wednesday’s ruling overturning Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California determined Wednesday that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
“Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” according to the decision in the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
Vaughn also declared that Prop. 8 “prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis.”
“It was our highest hope for the outcome,” said Tina Reynolds, founder of Equality Action Now, a gay rights group that formed Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Prop 8 was passed by California voters.
“It’s the very best ruling that he could have made,” she added. “It’s equality across the board. We called all the county marriage licensers and told them they’d be busy.”
Reynolds said marriages wouldn’t be possible Wednesday pending the court’s formal ruling, but she expected them to start up in the next few days.
Carla Hass, spokeswoman for the Sacramento-based Protect Marriage, which supports banning gay marriage, declined to comment Wednesday after the decision, saying all public announcements would be made on the group’s website.
As of press time, the group’s website had not been updated.
Groups for keeping marriage between a man and a woman are likely to appeal the decision.
“What a wonderful, wonderful day,” State Senate President pro-Tem Darrel Steinberg said at a press conference Wednesday. “The long, long race for equality is not yet over, but I think we lapped the other side.”
Steinberg added that Judge Walker taught all Californians and Americans a civics lesson.
The ruling was of special importance to Nicole Scanlan, who legally married her wife in the five-month window before Prop. 8 was enacted.
“We are already legally married, but my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters will now be equal,” she said.
Scanlan said she knows firsthand the feeling of being a “second-class citizen” and the change in that feeling when she was legally married.
“When you are able to do something fundamental that all Americans have the right to do...the feeling is indescribable,” she said.
Other couples rejoiced as well, including a pair of women who already tried to marry today and vowed at the press conference that they will be going back to get a marriage license every day until they are granted one.
“I think they should be able to get married,” said Ashlin Washington, who works in Sacramento. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Law student Viana Barbu agreed.
“That’s fantastic,” she said. “Legally, it was the right thing to do. You’re technically not supposed to amend the (California) Constitution that way anyway.”
Though many agreed with the court’s rulings, just as many were opposed, basing their arguments on both religious beliefs and the fact that Prop. 8 was a voter-approved measure.
“Does it matter if you vote on anything anymore?” asked one man in front of the Capitol who declined to give his name.
“I don’t believe in gay marriage,” said Michael Cato. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. To me, this is an abomination.”
Sacramento resident Larry Carter agreed, saying the decision should be reversed, as it is against his religious beliefs.
Not all religious sects are opposed to gay marriage, however.
The Very Reverend Brian Baker, dean of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, said he will happily marry same-sex couples.
“I am thrilled that same-sex couples in the state of California will be able to marry again,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.
Baker added that it is important not to compel anyone to perform a marriage ceremony against his or her beliefs.
Prop. 8 was approved by 52 percent of California voters in 2008 and stopped gays from being married. That ended a five-month period in which about 18,000 gay couples were married.
Two gay couples brought the matter to federal court in January, and Wednesday’s decision was effectively the culmination of that case.
Photos of press conference, Tina Reynolds and Darrel Steinberg by Kati Garner.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.