A federal judge ruled yesterday that Proposition 8 – California’s ballot-measure that revoked the state’s same-sex couples’ right to marry – is unconstitutional on grounds that it violates due process and equal protection clauses. Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision stated that proponents of Proposition 8 were unable to give any rational basis for the measure, and went on to say:
“In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples…this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.”
Though this represents a huge victory for the marriage equality movement, many LGBT activists and allies believe strongly that this is not enough, and want to go beyond marriage to afford the benefits of this institution to all people, regardless of marital status. Advocates of same-sex marriage point out its importance in terms of sharing of benefits and assets. However, a number of advocates rooted in economic justice and people of color organizing point out that the legal rights afforded by state-recognized marriage benefit largely those couples who have access to a number of resources already, and call for the recognition of alternative family structures and the separation of basic human rights – such as access to health care – from marriage altogether. Yesterday’s ruling is an important milestone for LGBT persons being regarded equally under the law, but we have much further to go.