The march toward full equality for the LGBT community took two giants steps forward this week, and both monumental legal rulings came out of California.
Many observers believe that Chief Judge James Ware’s decision in the Proposition 8 case will be go down as a career highlight for the jurist on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Judge Ware denied a motion from Prop. 8 supporters to vacate judgment by then-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Attorneys for Prop. 8 supporters had argued that Judge Walker was impartial during the trial because he failed to disclose that he is gay and in a long-term relationship. Nevermind that it was a little-kept secret that Walker was gay, and was widely published in the media covering the case, including San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
“This is a turning point,” Chad Griffin, board chair of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), said during a news conference immediately after the Ware ruling.
Ted Boutrous, attorney for AFER, said the ruling marked a significant milestone in the advancement of civil rights in America, a powerful statement that gay and lesbian judges were to be treated the same as judges who are women or of ethnic backgrounds.
The other landmark ruling came from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, which declared late Monday that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
The Bankruptcy Court granted a legally married gay couple a joint Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the first of its kind in American history. And to emphasize how strongly the Court felt on the issue, the ruling was signed by 20 bankruptcy judges in the Central District.
Also this week, the New York legislature began to consider gay marriage in the waning days of the current session. As of late Wednesday, supporters said they needed only one vote for the measure to pass the Senate.
“This has been a very big week for equality,” Griffin said.
We concur wholeheartedly. The march toward full equality continues.