A federal judge overturned California’s gay-marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.
Gay couples waving rainbow and American flags outside the courthouse cheered, hugged and kissed as word of the ruling spread.
“This is a victory for the American people. It’s a victory for our justice system,” said former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who delivered the closing argument at trial for opponents of the ban.
He said the ruling “vindicates the rights of a minority of our citizens to be treated with decency and respect and equality in our system.”
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the ruling as an important step toward equality and freedom for all people.
Despite the favorable ruling for same-sex couples, gay marriage will not be allowed to resume immediately. Judge Walker said he wants to decide whether his order should be suspended while the proponents of the ban pursue their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.