Prop 8: Advancing Civil Rights through Cultural and Constitutional Change


On August 4, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker issued his historic decision in the landmark case Perry v. Schwarzenegger, upholding the right of gays and lesbians in California to marry. This decision–the first of its kind from a federal court–set the stage for a world where Kris Perry’s heartfelt plea will become a reality. Perry has contributed to the emerging public consensus that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) should have the same right to marry the person they love that every other American citizen enjoys. JudgeWalker’s decision was a moving vindication of the most basic right of all: the right to one’s own family. Perry‘s challenge to the revocation ofmarriage equality in California changed the national debate about LGBT civil rights and is affecting society far beyond the issue of marriage.

Perry has affected the work of LGBT advocates focused on issues other than marriage through two channels: doctrinal change and cultural influence. First, Judge Walker’s decision supporting heightened scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation or gender identity has begun to influence court decisions on impact issues affecting the LGBT community far beyond marriage. Second, the cultural legacy arising from Perry’s dialogue about LGBT civil rights has helped tell powerful personal stories of the effects of anti-gay discrimination and inequality that will continue to change the world for future generations.

Suggested Reading

This is an excerpt from Kenji Yoshino’s new book, Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial. In his book, Professor Yoshino explores the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial, which he calls “one of the most powerful civil rights trials in American history.” Professor Yoshino