Even some who support same-sex marriage worry that, in striking down California's voter-approved proposition defining marriage as between one man and one woman, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker went too far. They are right -- and not the only ones who should be concerned. Walker's ruling is indefensible as a matter of law wholly apart from its result.
By refusing to acknowledge binding Supreme Court precedent, substantial evidence produced at trial that was contrary to the holding and plain common sense, the ruling exhibits none of the requirements of a traditional decision. This opinion is arbitrary and capricious, and its alarming legal methodology and overtly policy-driven tenor are too extreme to stand.
Regardless of whether one agrees with the result, structurally sound opinions always confront binding legal precedent. Walker's is a clear exception because the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on whether a state's refusal to authorize same-sex marriage violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In 1972, Baker v. Nelson, a case over whether Minnesota violated the Constitution by issuing marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples, was unanimously thrown out on the merits, for lack of a substantial federal question. The Supreme Court's action establishes a binding precedent in favor of Proposition 8. But Judge Walker's ruling doesn't mention Baker, much less attempt to distinguish it or accept its findings.