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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 13, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 33
California same-sex marriage on hold until August 18
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California same-sex marriage on hold until August 18

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Vaughn Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, gave opponents of same-sex weddings until August 18 at 5 p.m. to get a ruling from the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals on whether Gay marriage should resume. In other words, Walker put Gay marriages on hold for at least another six days in California, and depending on the appeals process, same-sex marriages could happen at that point or be put off indefinitely.

California voters passed Proposition 8 as a constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had tied the knot. Last week, Walker struck down the state's voter-approved Gay marriage ban in a case many believe is destined for the Supreme Court.

On August 12, Judge Walker declined to extend that stay beyond August 18, ruling, "The evidence presented at trial and the position of the representatives of the State of California show that an injunction against enforcement of Proposition 8 is in the public's interest. Accordingly, the court concludes that the public interest counsels against entry of the stay proponents seek."

"None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay," Walker's rule concluded. "Accordingly, proponents' motion for a stay is denied. The clerk is directed to enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be stayed until August 18, 2010 at 5 p.m. PTD at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce proposition 8."

What does it all mean?

Now that Walker has voiced his intentions to lift the stay (as of August 18), it is likely it will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. At the 9th Circuit, it would be reviewed by a three-person panel and their decision could be appealed to the full 9th Circuit, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. But because the U.S. Supreme Court is not in session until October, the decision about lifting the stay would be appealed to the Justice in charge, who, for the 9th Circuit, is Justice Kennedy.

In essence, same-sex marriages are likely to resume in California next week if a stay from the 9th Circuit is denied.

Both California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown had asked the court to lift the stay. "Doing so is consistent with California's long history of treating all people and their relationships with equal dignity and respect," Schwarzenegger's lawyers wrote in a brief filed August 6.

Supporters of Proposition 8 said Walker's ruling defied the will of voters and asked for the stay, arguing that they would eventually win the case.

Walker's ruling effectively makes California the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage, joining Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.

The decision set off a mix of emotions outside San Francisco City Hall, where several dozen Gay couples had lined up outside the county clerk's office in hopes of getting hitched. For some, the scene was joyous, and for others, Walker's decision was disappointing.

It would seem the battle for marriage equality in California is far from over.

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