The importance of the decision handed down yesterday by U. S. District Judge Vaughn  R. Walker in California's Proposition 8 trial will be difficult to exaggerate. Proponents of same-sex marriage immediately declared a major victory — and for good reason. The editorial board of The New York Times declared the verdict "an instant landmark in American legal history," and so it is, even if later reversed upon appeal.

Judge Walker's decision is sweeping and comprehensive, basically affirming every argument and claim put forth by those demanding that California's Proposition 8 be declared unconstitutional. That proposition, affirmed by a clear majority of California voters, amended the state's constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In one brazen act of judicial energy, California's voters were told that they had no right to define marriage, and thousands of years of human wisdom were discarded as irrational.

Even as the case is immediately appealed, the reality is that a Federal court has now declared that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Pressing beyond this verdict, Judge Walker also released a set of "findings" that include some of the most radical statements about marriage yet encountered.