On Wednesday afternoon U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 and reopened the door to same sex marriage in California. The case will now be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court and likely go from there to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Proposition 8 was a controversial ballot initiative to ban gay marriage which passed last year after a high pressure media campaign which pitted hardcore religious conservatives and the Mormon church against civil libertarians and Hollywood activists. The result was to override a prior court ruling which had led to a brief period of legalization for gay marriage under which 18,000 couples were married. The status of those couples and of future gay marriages in California remains unresolved until judge Walker decides whether or not to put his ruling on hold pending appeal.
Walker's ruling depends heavily on the Constitution and focuses on the issue of equal protection under the law, rejecting the idea that a majority vote can take rights away from minority groups. The ruling is a very positive step forward for liberty in California and a triumph for the rule of law over the rule of the mob.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that despite the fact that many conservative groups backed Proposition 8, in many ways this ruling is a direct product of a strong libertarian streak in the Republican party which is only getting stronger going into November's election.
Ronald Reagan who once commented that he believed that the "heart of conservatism is libertarianism" essentially planted a liberty bomb decades ago when he appointed judge Walker to his first position on the bench. Walker was then and remains an avowed constitutional libertarian and one of only three openly gay federal court judges.