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Illustration by Jennie Nguyen, L.A. Youth archives

A judge struck down Proposition 8 Wednesday, ruling that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, violates constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Prop 8 was passed by voters in 2008 after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. The ruling doesn’t mean that gay marriages can immediately take place because the judge gave the other side time to file an appeal. We asked our teen staff how they felt about the judge’s decision.

I want nothing more and nothing less than equal rights for everybody. While I disapprove of the institution of marriage, I don’t believe the legal benefits it affords should be restricted to a certain group of people based solely on personal moral and religious grounds. Furthermore, I don’t understand why everybody is offended that Judge Walker overturned voters’ passage of Prop 8. How much respect can we have for the American voter, when time and time again he has blundered? The voter is not infallible. Seven million votes backed by flawed ideology are just that: seven million mistakes.
Dario Guerrero, 17, California Academy of Math and Science (Carson)

The controversy over gay rights relates directly to the struggles of other previously ignored minority groups, like equal rights for African-American and women’s rights. It is unconstitutional and immoral to deny rights to a certain group of people. Gay marriage does not prevent gays from being gay and embracing their sexuality; rather, banning marriage for same-sex couples spreads homophobia and restricts the gay community from what they are entitled to do. Though this repeal does not guarantee marriage for same-sex couples yet in California, it is righting a wrong that should never have been legally passed.
Amy Fan, 16, Temple City HS

When I read in the Los Angles Times that Judge Vaughn Walker allowed gay marriage in California, I admired his courage for stating his opinion. Even though the case will be appealed, I feel that this gave same-sex marriage another chance. I support same-sex marriage, but I can understand why people supported Prop 8, sometimes based on religious beliefs. Nevertheless, I found it disheartening that so many people blamed Judge Walker. People were accusing him of going against the will of the people. Opponents of gay marriage argue that a child will fare better with opposite-sex parents than same-sex couples, but I think that depends on the child. Not everything is absolute, and we shouldn’t base our opinions just on statistics that may not even be valid. This ruling is a step forward for California. Perhaps we can stop stereotyping gays and lesbians and we can see that they’re human beings who have the same feelings and emotions as everyone else.
Tracy Yao, 16, Covina HS

Well so much for democracy. I thought we already covered the issue of gay marriage during the passing of Proposition 8 in 2008. I don’t understand how one individual’s decision can override the voice of California’s majority. It’s not the content of the law that I am most upset about but the messy proceedings. Even before the ruling was announced, there was no hope for those who voted in favor of Proposition 8. Whether or not Judge Walker overruled the proposition, the issue would have reached the Supreme Court. The fact that the majority of Californians have already voted no on same-sex marriage in 2000 and 2008 was completely disrespected. So is this what politics have come to? The opinion of 7 million voters is ignored because one person said so.
Lubina Kim
, 17, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

The decision was definitely good news. It’s nice that California has become one of the few states that gives everyone an opportunity to marry. I celebrated this news with my gay friend over the phone. I joked that he now could marry without moving to Massachusetts. This made me realize the case was really over denying a small group of people a basic right that everyone else takes for granted. Maybe being a nerd, I couldn’t help realize this whole legal dispute is similar to the Brown vs. Board of Education case, only then the group being discriminated against was African Americans. Like Brown vs. Board of Education, which struck down racial segregation in schools, this case could be the path for equality for gays and lesbians. This success will be short-lived though because supporters of Prop 8 are appealing. This might be a long dirty battle with more propaganda, protests, name-calling and cases. Even if people don’t like gays, they should at least let them live happily with the same basic rights as everyone else. I hope that gay marriage is allowed throughout the country.
Sunitha Warrier, 18, California Academy of Math and Science

I was a big opponent of Prop 8 during the 2008 elections but since I became religious again, I’ve moved to the right on a lot of issues including this one, but not far enough to say definitively that I either support or condemn it. What I do think, though, is that marriage is not a fundamental right like some gay marriage supporters are claiming. The great fundamental rights of American citizenship include freedom of speech and freedom of conscience; marriage is not among these basic principles of our democracy. Marriage is an ancient and fundamental part of society, but not a guaranteed protection or safeguard. Some have this idea that marriage is just for two people in love but I believe its purpose is for, if not procreation, the raising of children in a healthy stable environment. If we are to change the definition of marriage—like this decision has done—I believe we have to consider all the effects and ignore the zealous drive for engineered equality that many are using to justify supporting this ruling.
Esteban Garcia, 17, Warren HS (Downey)

I should be thrilled by the judge’s ruling, but my reaction to it was pretty subdued. No matter what decision was made, there’s no way everyone can be satisfied. Even though gay marriage isn’t illegal, it isn’t officially legal yet, and probably won’t be for a long time, so I’m not going to get excited about it just yet.
lllllI think the ruling was fair. If you look at it without being influenced by religion, purely from a logical standpoint like the judge’s, the decision was spot-on. I mean, if the Constitution is giving everybody in the entire United States all these rights, who are we to try to change the rights of someone else? Gays and lesbians are just as covered by the Constitution as straight people. Even if millions of people decided to team up to change one person’s rights, the Constitution has the power to tell us that we can’t. Regardless of your religious beliefs, when it comes down to facts and logic, the choice that was made is the most obvious one there is, one that, in my opinion, should have been in plain sight all along.
Feather Flores, 15, Monrovia HS

I think this is great. This is what should have been done a while ago. It isn’t fair that just because homosexuality makes Christians uncomfortable or they feel it’s morally wrong, that gays and lesbians should be denied their constitutional rights as American citizens. Gays pay taxes and work just as hard as any other American so they should be given the rights all of us have.
Stanton Ellison, 17, West L.A. College

My reaction to Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling to overturn Proposition 8 was welcoming but somewhat expected. Even though I was upset when Prop 8 passed two years ago, I wasn’t entirely devastated as I trusted the federal courts to overrule the vote. I felt that banning gay marriage was immoral and an obvious violation of constitutional rights; surely, the courts would do away with the ban against marriage for same-sex couples. Although it took two painstakingly long years, I’m glad justice finally prevailed.
lllllI live in a conservative household, so I celebrated alone after the news broke. My dad, who voted for Prop 8, wasn’t as upset about the re-institution of same-sex marriage as the overturning of the proposition itself. “How can the court just overturn the wishes of the majority in an election like that? What happened to a democracy?” he demanded.
lllllIt’s a tough call as I identify with both sides. Studying the Constitution and reasoning that all Americans share the same rights regardless of sex, social status, ethnicity or sexual orientation clearly spells out why Proposition 8 failed. But the point brought up by my father also struck: the decision of one person had the power to overturn the voices of over 7 million Californians who voted against same sex marriage. In this sense, Walker’s decision goes against the basis of our democratic institution. Which weights more: protecting the equality of all Americans as stated in the Constitution by granting gay marriage or overlooking the basis of our democracy, which is also stated in the Constitution, by ignoring ballot results?
lllllMy take on all of this is a simple saying: What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular. This sentence rings truer now more than ever. It’s been shown in history time after time that the general public doesn’t always make the best decisions. Most Confederates in 1860 supported slavery, but did that justify the institution of slavery with a majority vote? If they follow the law, pay their taxes, and protect our country through military service, two homosexuals should be able to express their love for each other through the institution of marriage.
Stephany Yong, 16, Walnut HS

Joy and anger. Those are the emotions I felt when I logged onto the New York Times website and saw the headline “Court Rejects Same-sex Marriage Ban.” Joy at the prospect that America would finally be living up to its promise of “Freedom and justice for all.” But I was also a little angry that it took so long. I believe that today is a landmark, a day to be celebrated by gay and straight people everywhere, because it brings us closer together as a people when we should never have been separated in the first place.
lllllMore than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous I have a Dream speech with its promises that “children not be judged but the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” is America finally starting to embrace the true meaning of those words. Skin color, sexual orientation, these are not things that people can change. Being gay doesn’t make someone any different. They pay their taxes, fight and die in our wars just like any other American. We live in America, a land where “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So today, I’m happy for the gay population of California. They are a step closer to having and deserving all their rights. But most of all today I am proud to be an American in a country that accepts all people, straight or gay.
Brian Yu, 15, Walnut HS

Wow. That was my only reaction to Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn Proposition 8. How can anybody actually allow this to happen? How does one man have the right to overturn the democratic decision of more than 7 million Californians? I mean, what was the point of even having an election in the first place if this would happen?
lllllI’ll be the first person to admit that I’m VERY biased on this issue. I’m a highly devoted Catholic. In no way, shape or form do I think same-sex marriage should be allowed. It has nothing to do with gays themselves. I respect every individual for who they are. But taking the term marriage, which to me is a highly religious term, and messing with it by allowing people of the same-sex to marry is unjust.

lllllEven though gays may not be allowed to marry right away, this is still a huge disappointment for anybody who supported Proposition 8. It does look like that same-sex marriage will be allowed in California. To me, it just seems highly unfair that the democratic vote of the majority of California can be completely ignored this way.
Kevin Ko, 15, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)