Tag Archives: verdict

Wisconsin gun shop to pay $1 million to settle lawsuit

A Wisconsin gun shop will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit in which a jury found it negligently sold a gun used to injure two Milwaukee police officers, the store’s attorney said.

The settlement eliminates what was expected to be a yearslong appeal of an October verdict in which jurors awarded Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch nearly $6 million.

An attorney for Badger Guns, James Vogts, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1QaOzBU ) late Friday that the case has “been settled and dismissed.”

“This case is over,” Vogts said. He declined to say why his client decided not to appeal.

A jury found that found that Badger Guns and its owner negligently sold the gun to a straw buyer — someone buying a gun for someone who cannot legally purchase one. 

Kunisch and Norberg sued Badger Guns, its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, and the owners five years ago.

Out of the $1 million settlement, Kunisch, who has retired from the department on duty disability, will receive $216,120, while Norberg will receive $74,427. The rest is split up among the city, lawyers’ fees and other costs.

The officers’ attorney, Patrick Dunphy, didn’t respond to requests for comment Saturday.

A separate lawsuit, filed by two different Milwaukee officers also wounded with a gun from the shop, remains set for trial in May.

Norberg and Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in 2009. Investigators said Burton got the weapon, a Taurus .40-caliber handgun, a month earlier, after giving $40 to another man, Jacob Collins, to make the purchase at the store in West Milwaukee.

One bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged into his shoulder. He remains on the force but said his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was shot several times, resulting in him losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He said the wounds forced him to retire.

Jurors ordered the store to pay Norberg $1.5 million and Kunisch $3.6 million. The jury also ruled the store must pay $730,000 in punitive damages.

The gun shop’s attorneys denied wrongdoing. They said the owner at the time of the sale, Adam Allan, couldn’t be held financially responsible for crimes connected to a weapon sold at his shop and that the clerk who sold the weapon didn’t intentionally commit a crime. Rather, they said Collins and Burton went out of their way to deceive him.

The case was only the second of its kind nationwide to make it to a jury since Congress passed a law a decade ago holding gun dealers and manufacturers largely immune from such lawsuits. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska.

Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence. Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.

Military judge finds Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy

UPDATE: Military judge finds Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy.

A U.S. military judge issued a verdict today in the case of gay Army soldier Bradley Manning, who was facing life in prison for giving thousands of pieces of classified military and diplomatic information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in one of the largest leaks in American history.

Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy but convicted on charges of espionage and theft.

The prosecution said the 25-year-old is a glory-seeking traitor.

His defense lawyers called him a naive whistleblower who was horrified by wartime atrocities but didn’t know that the material he leaked would end up in the hands of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

Army Col. Denise Lind began deliberating late last week after hearing nearly two months of conflicting evidence and arguments about the 25-year-old intelligence analyst. A military judge, not a jury, heard the case at Manning’s request.

The most serious of the charges against Manning was aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence in prison. And the judge, according to various press reports released shortly after 1 p.m. EST, found Manning not guilty on this charge.

Manning’s supporters had said that a conviction on the charge would have a chilling effect on government accountability by deterring people from disclosing official secrets to journalists. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a telephone press conference last week that if Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, it will be “the end of national security journalism in the United States.”

He accused the Obama administration of waging a “war on whistleblowers” and a “war on journalism.”

Prosecutors argued Manning knew the material would be seen across the globe, including by bin Laden, when he started the leaks in late 2009. Manning said he didn’t’ start leaking until February 2010.

“Worldwide distribution, that was his goal,” said the military’s lead prosecutor, Maj. Ashden Fein, during closing arguments. “Pfc. Manning knew the entire world included the enemy, from his training. He knew he was giving it to the enemy, specifically al-Qaida.”

Defense attorney David Coombs said Manning was negligent in releasing classified material, but lacked the “evil intent” that prosecutors must prove to convict him of aiding the enemy.

Coombs called the government’s final remarks “a diatribe … fictional … fantastical,” and said it leaped to conclusions and contradicted itself in areas where prosecutors could not prove something with facts.

After Coombs finished his three-hour-long argument, there was a smattering of applause from Manning supporters, who were hushed by the judge.

Manning also faced federal espionage and theft charges, and he was found guilty of those.

Manning had acknowledged giving WikiLeaks some 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and videos, but he says he didn’t believe the information would harm troops in Afghanistan and Iraq or threaten national security.

“The amount of the documents in this case, actually, is the best evidence that he was discreet in what he chose, because if he was indiscriminate, if he was systematically harvesting, we wouldn’t be talking about a few hundred thousand documents – we’d be talking about millions of documents,” Coombs said.

Giving the material to WikiLeaks was no different than giving it to a newspaper, Coombs said. The government disagreed and said Manning would also have been charged if he had leaked the classified material to the media.

Coombs showed three snippets of video from a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack Manning leaked, showing troops firing on a small crowd of men on a Baghdad sidewalk, killing several civilians, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Coombs said the loss of civilian lives horrified the young soldier.

“You have to look at that from the point of view of a guy who cared about human life,” Coombs said.

Coombs has said Manning wanted to do something to make a difference, and he hoped revealing what was going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. diplomacy would inspire debate and reform in foreign and military policy.

Coombs also countered one of prosecutor Fein’s arguments that attempted to show Manning was seeking fame: A photo Manning took of himself, smiling in front of a mirror while on leave. Fein said it showed a “gleeful, grinning” Manning who was proud to be “on his way to notoriety” he wanted.

Coombs asked the judge to take a closer look at the photo, pointing out that Manning was wearing makeup and a bra.

“Maybe, just maybe … he is happy to be himself for that moment,” Coombs said of Manning’s struggle to fit into the military at a time when he was confused about his gender identity and serving openly was illegal for gays.

After his arrest in May 2010, Manning was held alone for nine months in a windowless cell 23 hours a day, sometimes with no clothing. Jailers at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, said they considered him a suicide risk. Lind later ruled Manning had been illegally punished and should get 112 days off any prison sentence he receives. 

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

Despite outcry, stand-ground law repeals unlikely

Despite an outcry from civil rights groups, a call for close examination by President Barack Obama and even a 1960s-style sit-in at the Florida governor’s office, a jury’s verdict that a former neighborhood watch volunteer was justified in shooting an unarmed black teenager is unlikely to spur change to any of the “stand your ground” self-defense laws in various states.

George Zimmerman, a 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted this month of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin only after the African-American teenager physically attacked him. But Martin’s family and supporters say Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, racially profiled Martin as a potential criminal and wrongly pursued him.

Zimmerman’s lawyers decided not to pursue a pretrial immunity hearing allowed by Florida’s stand-your-ground law. But jurors were told in final instructions by Circuit Judge Debra Nelson that they should acquit Zimmerman if they found “he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary.”

Before Florida’s “stand your ground” law was passed in 2005, the instruction would have read that Zimmerman “cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force.”

Since the law was enacted, justifiable homicides in Florida have risen from an annual average of 13.2 between 2001 and 2005 to an average of 42 between 2006 and 2012, including a record 66 in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

FBI data have shown similar increases in some states that enacted similar laws, such as Texas, while others haven’t seen an uptick.

At least 22 states have laws similar to Florida’s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many are conservative and lean toward laws that defend gun owners’ rights. So far, there does not appear to be an appetite in Florida and other states to repeal or change the laws, which generally eliminate a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical threat. In fact, some states are moving in the opposite direction.

Since the Florida jury’s verdict, the Republican governors of Florida, Arizona and Georgia have all reiterated their support of “stand your ground” laws.

“The debate about ‘stand your ground’ laws largely reproduces existing divisions in American politics, particularly between blacks and whites and between Democrats and Republicans,” said John Sides, associate professor of political science at George Washington University.

Beyond Florida, the states that have some form of a “stand your ground” law include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Speaking recently to a convention of the NAACP in Orlando, Fla., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Martin shooting demonstrates a need to re-examine the laws. The laws “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense” and increase the possibility of deadly confrontations, he said.

Obama said the nation needed to do some “soul-searching.” He questioned whether a law could really promote peace and security if it sent the message that someone who is armed “has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation.”

“By standing his ground, George Zimmerman was able to get away with murdering a 17-year-old black man,” said Chelsea Jones, a student who spoke at a Dallas rally. “I can only imagine what the black community can achieve by standing their ground.”

Even entertainer Stevie Wonder has joined the outcry, vowing not to perform in Florida and other states with “stand your ground” laws on the books. The Rev. Al Sharpton suggested that the law’s opponents might boycott Florida orange juice, and other groups want to boycott the state’s tourist destinations. Both are multibillion-dollar industries.

Florida state Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, said the Zimmerman verdict was a “wake-up call” that should at least open fresh debate on “stand your ground” laws.

He noted that in the wake of the 2011 acquittal of Casey Anthony in the killing of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, Florida lawmakers passed legislation making it a felony for a parent or guardian to fail to report a missing child within 36 hours. Caylee’s disappearance was not reported for 31 days.

“We are calling for the same type of action,” Smith said.

But The Associated Press has found scant support for repeal of the laws in Florida and elsewhere. Scott told reporters he agreed with the findings of a task force he appointed on the subject after Martin’s shooting, which recommended no changes to the state’s “stand your ground” law. Of the protesters in his Capitol office, Scott said, “I think it is great that people are exercising their voices.”

After Holder’s speech, the National Rifle Association, which strongly backs the laws and holds enormous sway in many state legislatures, issued a statement claiming that Obama’s administration was aiming more at the broader political goal of restricting gun rights.

“The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable.”

In fact, in states with “stand your ground” laws similar to Florida’s, the trend has been toward greater gun rights. In Wisconsin, for example, Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 signed a castle doctrine law, which provides criminal immunity and protection from civil suits for homeowners and business owners who use deadly force self-defense. 

Wisconsin and other states also have passed open carry measures that allow people with concealed carry permits to display their handguns openly in a holster. 

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, appeared on NBC television’s “Meet the Press” and called the laws “one of the things that has incited and ignited, I believe, this movement across the nation, which I think is the beginning of a new civil rights movement.”

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said during the show that the question now is whether it’s proper for the federal government to tell states with stand-your-ground laws how to change or remake them. His answer: “No. I mean, this is something that’s going to have to be worked out state by state.”

New Jersey spycam case stirs debate over hate crime laws

There was a verdict in the wrenching Rutgers webcam spying case, but no resolution to a broader question that hovered over it: To what extent are hate crime laws a help or a hindrance in the pursuit of justice?

The gist of the verdict: Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi was convicted Friday of anti-gay intimidation for using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s love life. The roommate, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, threw himself to his death off a bridge not long after realizing he’d been watched.

While disavowing any sense of celebration, some gay-rights leaders commended the outcome as a vindication of hate crimes legislation.

“We do believe this verdict sends the important message that a ‘kids will be kids’ defense is no excuse to bully another student,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality.

In other quarters, there was dismay at the use of New Jersey’s hate crimes law in the case, and at the verdict that could saddle 20-year-old Ravi with a prison sentence of 10 years or more despite a dearth of evidence that he hated gays.

“It illustrates why hate crime laws are not a good idea,” said James Jacobs, a law professor at New York University. “They were passed to be admired and not to be used.”

A longtime gay rights activist in New York, Bill Dobbs, also was troubled by the case.

“As hate crime prosecutions mount, the problems with these laws are becoming more obvious … how they compromise cherished constitutional principles,” Dobbs said. “Now a person gets tried not just for misdeeds, but for who they are, what they believe, what their character is.”

Hate crime laws have been an American institution for decades, and are on the books in 45 states. Generally, they provide enhanced penalties for crimes committed out of racial, ethnic or religious basis, while the laws in about 30 states, including New Jersey, also cover offenses based on sexual orientation.

In 2009, Congress followed suit, expanding federal hate-crimes legislation to cover crimes motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The bill is known as the Matthew Shepard Act, in honor of the gay college student brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998.

According to the latest FBI statistics, 1,528 people were targeted by anti-gay hate crimes in 2010 – accounting for almost 19 percent of all reported hate crimes.

Lambda Legal, a national gay-rights legal group, said the Ravi verdict underscored the value of hate crime legislation.

“Hate crime laws are public statements that our government and our society recognize the deep wounds inflicted when violence is motivated by prejudice and hate,” said the group’s deputy legal director, Hayley Gorenberg. “The verdict … demonstrates that the jurors understood that bias crimes do not require physical weapons like a knife in one’s hand.”

Asked about the debate over hate crime laws, Gorenberg stressed the need to consider the plight of victimized gays and lesbians, especially young people.

“If this is the case that propels us to wholesale reconsidering of hate crime laws, we’re missing the boat,” she said. “I’d urge people to rethink a different question – what’s going on in our schools and society such that we have young people experiencing invasions of their privacy, harassment, discrimination and despair, sometimes ending in tragedy.”

Some conservative legal groups campaigned vigorously against the Matthew Shepard Act, dubbing it a “thought crimes” bill that would potentially criminalize anti-gay speech as well as anti-gay violence.

“These laws serve only one purpose – they criminalize thoughts and beliefs that are not considered politically correct,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund.

“There’s a clash and a conflict – I don’t know that it’s here yet, but it’s coming – with freedom of expression and freedom of religion,” Stanley said.

Jacobs, the NYU professor, has depicted hate crime laws as unnecessary and counterproductive, albeit popular among certain politicians.

“It’s one thing to pass them, and everyone is proud to say they’re opposed to hate and bigotry,” he said. “Yet occasionally these laws are used in cases like this (the Ravi trial)… What he did was immature, stupid, wrong, but to make this a poster case for hate crimes shows the weakness, the whole misapplication of the idea.”

For the American Civil Liberties Union, which strives to defend both freedom of expression and gay rights, hate crimes legislation can raise some complicated questions.

Chris Anders, the ALCU’s senior legislative counsel for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, said the organization supports aspects of federal hate crimes policy that allow for federal intervention in cases where state or local officials are deemed to be remiss.

However, he said the ACLU has been concerned about the possibility that hate crimes trials could make use of evidence not directly related to the crime – a defendant’s past comments or reading material, for example.

Anders said the ALCU withdrew its support for the Matthew Shepard Act because it did not include certain language addressing this concern.

“In our view, hate crimes statutes focused on violent acts can be constitutional, whereas those focused on discriminatory speech are not,” Anders said.

He recalled that during debate on the Matthew Shepard Act, many Republicans assailed it and many Democrats lauded it.

“Most of these things are much more nuanced, and it’s hard to get people to focus on that,” Anders said.

Guilty verdict in Rutgers spycam case

A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s love life was convicted of invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation Friday in a case that exploded into the headlines when the victim threw himself to his death off a bridge.

Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head slightly after hearing guilty verdicts on all 15 counts against him. He and his lawyers left the courthouse without comment, his father’s arm around his shoulders.

He could get up to 10 years in prison, by some estimates — and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy — for an act that cast a spotlight on teen suicide and anti-gay bullying and illustrated the Internet’s potential for tormenting others.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up a webcam in his dorm room in September 2010 and captured roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half-dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing.

Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and leaped from the George Washington Bridge after posting one last status update on Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”

At a courthouse news conference after the verdict, Clementi’s father, Joe, addressed himself to college students and other young people, saying: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”

Rutgers said in a statement: “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”

During the trial, Ravi’s lawyer argued that the college freshman was not motivated by any hostility toward gays and that his actions were just those of an immature “kid.” The defense also contended Ravi initially set up the camera because he was afraid Clementi’s older, “sketchy”-looking visitor might steal his belongings.

The jury found Ravi not guilty on some subparts of some of the charges, but guilty of all 15 counts as a whole.

The most serious charges — bias intimidation based on sexual orientation, a hate crime — carry up to 10 years behind bars each. But legal experts said the most Ravi would probably get all together at sentencing May 21 would be 10 years.

Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers had rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison. He would have gotten probation and community service and would have been given help in avoiding deportation.

Ravi was not charged with causing Clementi’s death, and the suicide remained largely in the background at the trial, though some witnesses mentioned it and the jury was told Clementi had taken his life.

Prosecutors were not allowed to argue directly that the spying led to his death; defense lawyers were barred from saying there were other reasons he killed himself.

Each bias intimidation charge included five questions. A finding of guilty on any of them made Ravi guilty of the entire charge. The jury issued a split verdict on those subquestions.

It found, for example, that Ravi did not try to intimidate Clementi’s romantic partner, identified in court only as M.B., and that Clementi reasonably believed Ravi was trying to intimidate him because of his sexual orientation. It split on questions of whether Ravi knowingly or willfully intimidated Clementi because of his sexuality.

Clementi’s death was one in a string of suicides by young gays around the country in September 2010. President Barack Obama commented on it, as did talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

New Jersey lawmakers hastened passage of an anti-bullying law because of the case, and Rutgers changed its housing policies to allow people of the opposite sex to room together in an effort to make gay, bisexual and transgender students feel more comfortable.

Testimony came from about 30 witnesses over 12 days, including 32-year-old M.B. Ravi himself did not testify, though the jury watched a video of his interrogation by police.

Ravi and Clementi, both 18-year-old freshmen from comfortable New Jersey suburbs, had been randomly assigned to room together, and Clementi had arrived at college just a few days after coming out to his parents as gay.

A string of students testified they never heard Ravi say anything bad about gays in general or Clementi in particular. But students did say Ravi expressed some concern about sharing a room with a gay man.

On Sept. 19, according to testimony, Clementi asked Ravi to leave their room so that he could have a guest. Later, Ravi posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Ravi told police that he watched only seconds of the encounter via computer.

His friend Molly Wei testified that she and a few other students also watched the live stream of the men kissing. (Wei was initially charged in the case but was later accepted into a pretrial program that will allow her to keep her record clean.)

Two nights later, Clementi asked for the room alone again. This time, Ravi tweeted: “I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.” He also texted a friend about a planned “viewing party” and, two students said, went to friends’ rooms to show them how to access the feed.

However, there was no evidence the webcam was turned on that night. Ravi told police he had put his computer to sleep. Prosecutors argued Clementi himself unplugged the computer.

According to testimony, Clementi submitted a room-change request form and talked to a resident assistant about what happened. He also used his laptop to view Ravi’s Twitter site 38 times in the last two days of his life. He killed himself Sept. 22.

Verdict: Love rules | Appeals court strikes down Prop 8

Ted Olson’s legal team would later provide a detailed analysis of the federal appeals court ruling striking down Proposition 8. But at the press conference immediately following the Feb. 7 release of the opinion, the attorney sounded more like a coach relishing an underdog’s victory.

“This is a huge day,” Olson told reporters assembled in Los Angeles and viewing on a live feed on the Web.

He couldn’t say that enough. “Huge.” “Huge.”

Olson stood at a podium in downtown LA with the plaintiffs in Perry v. Brown who want to marry and their families.

Behind them stood a row of eight American flags. Nearby was a stack of paper, copies of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion. The “Decision on Merits” contained 133 pages of legal review, analysis and findings in favor of the quest for marriage equality. The document was celebrated coast to coast, from the Golden State to the Garden State, on Feb. 7.

The appeals court panel, in a 2-1 ruling, affirmed a district court judge’s August 2010 finding that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Prop 8 was approved by a narrow majority vote in November 2008 and amended the California Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, ending new same-sex marriages in the state.

In May 2009, Olson and Boies, working with the American Foundation for Equal Rights and representing two couples – Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo – sued to overturn Prop 8.

After a 12-day trial, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker struck down the measure. He wrote, “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.”

Proposition 8 proponents appealed, defending the measure in court because the governor and secretary of state refused to mount a legal defense of a measure they said is unconstitutional.

Fast-tracking of the case led to the release of the ruling on Feb. 7.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, author of the opinion, wrote, “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”

The court concluded that Prop 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Proposition 8 operates with no apparent purpose but to impose on gays and lesbians, through the public law, a majority’s private disapproval of them and their relationships, by taking away from them the official designation of ‘marriage,’ with its officially recognized status. Proposition 8 therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause,” Reinhardt wrote.

The term marriage, the court also said, carries “extraordinary significance.”

Olson said the court’s “momentous decision” is a reminder “that it is time that we, as Americans, treat all of our fellow citizens with fairness and decency.”

At the press conference in Los Angeles and later in San Francisco, the plaintiffs and their families savored the victory and recommitted to the equality campaign, which likely will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We can see over the dark wall of discrimination,” Perry said. 

She added, “It has been a long road. Sandy and I are anxious to get married before our young children graduate from high school next year.”

Son Spencer Perry, 17, said, “When Prop 8 doesn’t allow parents like mine to marry, it says that our family, that my brothers, that my mothers, shouldn’t belong, that we don’t get to be the same as my friends’ families.”

Celebrations of the court’s ruling took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Concord, Rancho Cucamonga, Santa Ana, San Diego, Santa Barbara and other California cities, as well as in New York City at the Stonewall Inn.

“With today’s ruling we are a giant step closer to the day when the promise of our Constitution squares with the lived reality of LGBT people,” said Kate Kendall of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.

At least one step remains, and maybe two steps.

ProtectMarriage.com, which is defending Prop 8 in the legal battle with help from Christian groups such as the Alliance Defense Fund, immediately announced its intent to appeal. But it was uncertain whether the appeal would be for a review by the full Ninth Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ProtectMarriage has 15 days from Feb. 7 to ask the appeals court to reconsider and 90 days from the decision date to file for a Supreme Court review.

At the National Organization for Marriage, which helped fund the Prop 8 ballot campaign, Brian Brown called the appeals court decision sweeping, wrong-headed and predictable. “As predictable,” he said, “as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game.”

But Brown said he’s optimistic the right will win at the Supreme Court level.

“We have every confidence,” he said.

In the meantime, the court likely will maintain a stay, blocking any same-sex marriages from taking place in California.

For the record…

“As sweeping and wrong-headed as this decision is, it nonetheless was as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game.” – Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage.

“This is a huge victory in the battle for marriage equality, but this fight is far from over. The federal government still refuses to recognize our families.” – Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C.

“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage – tried in San Francisco – turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court.” – Brian Raum of the Alliance Defense Fund.

“This is not the end of the road, for this case or for the larger struggle for marriage equality. We must all continue our work – in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms – until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere.” – Joe Solmonese of the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.

“This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” – Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This is an enormous step toward marriage equality, not only for California, but for all Americans.” – Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal based in New York.