Gay Marriage Ruling Anchored in Factual Findings

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August 5, 2010


"As lawyers last year prepared for the federal case that would challenge California's ban on gay marriage, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker told both sides that he saw his role as a finder of facts who could produce a record that would inform higher courts grappling with constitutional matters. The ruling he released Wednesday declaring the ban unconstitutional reflected that inclination...

"At least some legal analysts believe that Walker fashioned his order to force judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the practical reality of gay unions, rather than treating them as a legal abstraction. Some analysts also said the reliance on the trial testimony might help Walker's decision survive an appeals court's scrutiny because appellate judges typically give a trial judge's factual findings some deference...

"Jon W. Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on sexual orientation law, agreed that Walker's factual findings would carry less weight than the kind of straightforward, so-called 'whodunit' facts that higher courts let trial judges determine.

"But the evidence cited by Walker will 'make it harder for higher courts to make the kind of faulty assumptions and speculations that have appeared in other appeals court rulings,' such as the argument that children fare better with opposite-sex parents and that sexual orientation, unlike race, can be changed, Davidson said."