Perry v. SCHWARZENEGGER

704 F. Supp. 2d 921

 

A state's interest in an enactment must of course be secular in nature. The state does not have an interest in enforcing private moral or religious beliefs without  [*931]  an accompanying secular purpose. See Lawrence v Texas, 539 US 558, 571, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 156 L. Ed. 2d 508 (2003); see also Everson v Board of Education of Ewing Township, 330 US 1, 15, 67 S. Ct. 504, 91 L. Ed. 711 (1947).

Perhaps recognizing that Proposition 8 must advance a secular purpose to be constitutional, proponents abandoned previous arguments from the campaign that had asserted the moral superiority of opposite-sex couples. Instead, in this litigation, proponents asserted that Proposition  8:

 

1. Maintains California's definition of marriage as excluding same-sex couples;

2. Affirms the will of California citizens to exclude samesex couples from marriage;

3. Promotes stability in relationships between a man and a woman because they naturally (and at times unintentionally) produce children; and

4. Promotes "statistically optimal" child-rearing households; that is, households in which children are raised by a man and a woman married to each other.

 

Doc #8 at 17-18.

While proponents vigorously defended the constitutionality of Proposition 8, they did so based on legal conclusions and cross-examinations of some of plaintiffs' witnesses, eschewing all but a rather limited factual presentation.

Proponents argued that Proposition 8 should be evaluated solely by considering its language and its consistency with the "central purpose of marriage, in California and everywhere else, * * * to promote naturally procreative sexual relationships and to channel them into stable, enduring unions for the sake of producing and raising the next generation." Doc #172-1 at 21. Proponents asserted that marriage for same-sex couples is not implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and thus its denial does not deprive persons seeking such unions of due process. See generally Doc #172-1. Nor, proponents continued, does the exclusion of same-sex couples in California from marriage deny them equal protection because, among other reasons, California affords such couples a separate parallel institution under its domestic partnership statutes. Doc #172-1 at 75 et seq.

At oral argument on proponents' motion for summary judgment, the court posed to proponents' counsel the assumption that "the state's interest in marriage is procreative" and inquired how permitting same-sex marriage impairs or adversely affects that interest. Doc #228 at 21. Counsel replied that the inquiry was "not the legally relevant question," id, but when pressed for an answer, counsel replied: "Your honor, my answer is: I don't know. I don't know." Id at 23.

Despite this response, proponents in their trial brief promised to "demonstrate that redefining marriage to encompass same-sex relationships" would effect some twenty-three specific harmful consequences. Doc #295 at 13-14. At trial, however, proponents presented only one witness, David Blankenhorn, to address the government interest in marriage. Blankenhorn's testimony is addressed at length hereafter; suffice it to say that he provided no credible evidence to support any of the claimed adverse effects proponents promised to demonstrate. During closing arguments, proponents again focused on the contention that "responsible procreation is really at the heart of society's interest in regulating marriage." Tr 3038:7-8. When asked to identify the evidence at trial that supported this contention, proponents' counsel replied, "you don't have to have evidence of this point." Tr 3037:25-3040:4.

            Proponents' procreation argument, distilled to its essence, is as follows: the state has an interest in encouraging sexual activity between people of the opposite sex to occur in stable marriages because such sexual activity may lead to pregnancy and children, and the state has an interest in encouraging parents to raise children in stable households. Tr 3050:17-3051:10. The state therefore, the argument goes, has an interest in encouraging all opposite-sex sexual activity, whether responsible or irresponsible, procreative or otherwise, to occur within a stable marriage, as this encourages the development of a social norm that opposite-sex sexual activity should occur within marriage. Tr 3053:10-24. Entrenchment of this norm increases the probability that procreation will occur within a marital union. Because samesex couples' sexual activity does not lead to procreation, according to proponents the state has no interest in encouraging their sexual activity to occur within a stable marriage. Thus, according to proponents, the state's only interest is in oppositesex sexual activity.

 

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THE RIGHT TO MARRY PROTECTS AN INDIVIDUAL'S CHOICE OF MARITAL PARTNER REGARDLESS OF GENDER

            The freedom to marry is recognized as a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clause. See, for example, Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 95, 107 S. Ct. 2254, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64 (1987) ("[T]he decision to marry is a fundamental right" and marriage is an "expression[Ballot box] of emotional support and public commitment."); Zablocki, 434 US at 384 (1978) ("The right to marry is of fundamental importance   for all individuals."); Cleveland Board of Education v LaFleur, 414 US 632, 639-40, 94 S. Ct. 791, 39 L. Ed. 2d 52 (1974) ("This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."); Loving v Virginia, 388 US 1, 12, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010 (1967) (The "freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal  rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."); Griswold v Connecticut, 381 US 479, 486, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965) ("Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.").

The parties do not dispute that the right to marry is fundamental. The question presented here is whether plaintiffs seek to exercise the fundamental right to marry; or, because they are couples of the same sex, whether they seek recognition of a new right.

 [HN11] To determine whether a right is fundamental under the  Due Process Clause, the court inquires into whether the right is rooted "in our Nation's history, legal traditions, and practices." Glucksberg, 521 US at 710. Here, because the right to marry is fundamental, the court looks to the evidence presented at trial to determine: (1) the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States; and (2) whether plaintiffs seek to exercise their right to marry or seek to exercise some other right. Id.

Marriage has retained certain characteristics throughout the history of the United States. See FF 19, 34-35. Marriage requires two parties to give their free consent to form a relationship, which then forms the foundation of a household. FF 20, 34. The spouses must consent to support each other and any dependents. FF 34-35, 37. The state regulates marriage because marriage creates stable households, which in turn form the basis of a stable, governable populace. FF 35-37. The state respects an individual's choice to build a family with another and protects the relationship because it is so central a part of an individual's life. See Bowers v Hardwick, 478 US 186, 204-205, 106 S. Ct. 2841, 92 L. Ed. 2d 140 (1986) (Blackmun, J, dissenting).

 [HN12] Never has the state inquired into procreative  capacity or intent before issuing a marriage license; indeed, a marriage license is more than a license to have procreative sexual intercourse. FF 21. "[I]t would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse." Lawrence, 539 US at 567. The Supreme Court recognizes that, wholly apart from procreation, choice and privacy play a pivotal role in the marital relationship. See Griswold, 381 US at 485-486.

Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states but are now seen as archaic, shameful or even bizarre. FF 23-25. When the Supreme Court invalidated race restrictions in Loving, the definition of the right to marry did not change. 388 US at 12. Instead, the Court recognized that race restrictions, despite their historical prevalence, stood in stark contrast to the concepts of liberty and choice inherent in the right to marry. Id.

The marital bargain in California (along with other states) traditionally required that a woman's legal and economic identity be subsumed by her husband's upon marriage under the doctrine of coverture; this once-unquestioned aspect of marriage now is regarded as antithetical to the notion  of marriage as a union of equals. FF 26-27, 32. As states moved to recognize the equality of the sexes, they eliminated laws and practices like coverture that had made gender a proxy for a spouse's role within a marriage. FF 26-27, 32. Marriage was thus transformed from a male-dominated  institution into an institution recognizing men and women as equals. Id. Yet, individuals retained the right to marry; that right did not become different simply because the institution of marriage became compatible with gender equality.

The evidence at trial shows that marriage in the United States traditionally has not been open to same-sex couples. The evidence suggests many reasons for this tradition of exclusion, including gender roles mandated through coverture, FF 26-27, social disapproval of same-sex relationships, FF 74, and the reality that the vast majority of people are heterosexual and have had no reason to challenge the restriction, FF 43. The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not  show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. FF 21. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. FF 19-20, 34-35. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. FF 33. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses' obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. FF 48. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Plaintiffs seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and plaintiffs' relationships  are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States. Perry and Stier seek to be spouses; they seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage, FF 52. Zarrillo and Katami seek recognition from the state that their union is "a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred." Griswold, 381 US at 486. Plaintiffs' unions encompass the historical purpose and form of marriage. Only the plaintiffs' genders relative to one another prevent California from giving their relationships due recognition.

Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs' objective as "the right to same-sex marriage" would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy -- namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.

 

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A PRIVATE MORAL VIEW THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE INFERIOR TO OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES IS NOT A PROPER BASIS FOR LEGISLATION

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. FF 78-80. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate. See Romer, 517 US at 633; Moreno, 413 US at 534; Palmore v Sidoti, 466 US 429, 433, 104 S. Ct. 1879, 80 L. Ed. 2d 421 (1984) ( [HN22] "[T]he  Constitution cannot control [private biases] but neither can it tolerate them.").

The evidence shows that Proposition 8 was a hard-fought campaign and that the majority of California voters supported the initiative. See Background to Proposition 8 above, FF 17-18, 79-80. The arguments surrounding Proposition 8 raise a question similar to that addressed in Lawrence, when the Court asked whether a majority of citizens could use the power of the state to enforce "profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles" through the criminal code. 539 US at 571. The question here is whether California voters can enforce those same principles through regulation of marriage licenses. They cannot.  [HN23] California's obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to "mandate [its] own moral code." Id (citing Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa v Casey, 505 US 833, 850, 112 S. Ct. 2791, 120 L. Ed. 2d 674, (1992)). "[M]oral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest," has never been a rational basis for legislation. Lawrence, 539 US at 582 (O'Connor, J, concurring). Tradition alone cannot support legislation. See Williams, 399 US at 239; Romer, 517 US at 635; Lawrence, 539 US at 579.

Proponents' purported  rationales are nothing more than post-hoc justifications.  [HN24] While the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit post-hoc rationales, they must connect to the classification drawn. Here, the purported state interests fit so poorly with Proposition 8 that they are irrational, as explained above. What is left is evidence that Proposition 8 enacts a moral view that there is something "wrong" with same-sex couples. See FF 78-80.

The evidence at trial regarding the campaign to pass Proposition 8 uncloaks the most likely explanation for its passage: a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex  couples. FF 79-80. The campaign relied heavily on negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians and focused on protecting children from inchoate threats vaguely associated with gays and lesbians. FF 79-80; See PX0016 Video, Have You Thought About It? (video of a young girl asking whether the viewer has considered the consequences to her of Proposition 8 but not explaining what those consequences might be).

At trial, proponents' counsel attempted through cross-examination to show that the campaign wanted to protect children from learning about same-sex marriage  in school. See PX0390A Video, Ron Prentice Addressing Supporters of Proposition 8, Excerpt; Tr 132:25-133:3 (proponents' counsel to Katami: "But the fact is that what the Yes on 8 campaign was pointing at, is that kids would be taught about same-sex relationships in first and second grade; isn't that a fact, that that's what they were referring to?"). The evidence shows, however, that Proposition 8 played on a fear that exposure to homosexuality would turn children into homosexuals and that parents should dread having children who are not heterosexual. FF 79; PX0099 Video, It's Already Happened (mother's expression of horror upon realizing her daughter now knows she can marry a princess).

The testimony of George Chauncey places the Protect Marriage campaign advertisements in historical context as echoing messages from previous campaigns to enact legal measures to disadvantage gays and lesbians. FF 74, 77-80. The Protect Marriage campaign advertisements ensured California voters had these previous fear-inducing messages in mind. FF 80. The evidence at trial shows those fears to be completely unfounded. FF 47-49, 68-73, 76-80.

 [HN25] Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples. FF 76, 79-80; Romer, 517 US at 634 ("[L]aws of the kind now before us raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.").  [HN26] Because Proposition 8 disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

CONCLUSION

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that oppositesex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.