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However, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker also issued a temporary stay that blocks same-sex marriages until 5 p.m. Wednesday to “permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner,” he wrote.
If the appeals court issues an emergency stay in the next six days, same-sex weddings could still be a long way off.
Proposition 8 sponsors and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, had wanted Walker’s ruling to be suspended throughout the appeals process, which could take months and possibly eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his ruling today, Walker argued that Proposition 8 supporters did not provide sufficient evidence proving their case had enough merit to justify a stay. He also said that proponents did not prove they would suffer irreparable injury without one.
In fact, Walker wrote, the trial left “no doubt that Proposition 8 inflicts harm on plaintiffs and other gays and lesbians in California.” A stay, he said, would only prolong that harm.
Finally, Walker quoted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in arguing that a stay would not be in the best interest of the public because allowing the court’s judgment to take effect upholds the rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.
Schwarzenegger had filed a brief last week in support of letting same-sex marriages resume.
Julie Nice, a law professor who specializes in sexuality law at the University of San Francisco, called today’s ruling a “straightforward and thorough repudiation” of proponents’ arguments.
But Proposition 8 supporters are filing an appeal of Walker’s decision on the stay with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the appeals court acts quickly, Nice said, it could potentially issue an emergency stay that would halt same-sex marriages before Wednesday.
If the appeals court acts after 5 p.m. Wednesday, same-sex marriages can proceed starting at that time.
Still, experts say it’s uncertain whether those marriages would be voided if Walker’s decision to strike down Proposition 8 is eventually reversed. Nice said she believes those marriages would likely stand.
“The way the rule normally operates around the country is that the legal system looks to whether the marriage was valid at the time and place it was celebrated,” Nice said.
Walker wrote in today’s ruling that “…marriages performed pursuant to a valid injunction would be lawful, much like the 18,000 marriages performed before the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008.”
Those marriages were performed between June 2008, when a California Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage under the state Constitution went into effect, and Nov. 4, 2008, when a 52 percent majority of voters enacted Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment.
The California Supreme Court later upheld Proposition 8 in May 2009, but left the 18,000 existing marriages in effect.
Nice said that the next big issue likely to take the limelight in this debate is whether the appeal to Walker’s ruling blocking Proposition 8 has any legal standing as the state is not named as a defendant in the appeal. Which means essentially that the appeals court will have to decide whether a private party defending a state law can legally appeal the order.
Walker wrote in the ruling on the stay issued today that this potential legal hole could soon turn into a chasm. That aspect might need to be resolved before the merits of the appeal could even be considered, he said.
“As it appears at least doubtful that proponents will be able to proceed with their appeal without a state defendant, it remains unclear whether the court of appeals will be able to reach the merits of the proponents’ appeal,” he wrote.
Although Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared as defendants in the 2009 federal lawsuit, both declined to defend Proposition 8, leaving the arguing to the initiative’s sponsors.
After Walker ruled to overturn Proposition 8 on Aug. 4, both Schwarzenegger and Brown filed separate briefs asking that Walker allow same-sex marriages to resume immediately in the state.
2:55 PM: A federal judge in San Francisco today declined to block gay and lesbian weddings as a court battle over California’s ban on same-sex marriage moves forward, but put the marriages on hold by extending a temporary stay until Aug. 18.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker turned down a request by sponsors of Proposition 8 for a long-term stay while they appeal a ruling in which he struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last week.
But Walker agreed to extend a temporary stay of his ruling until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to enable the proposition’s supporters to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a long-term stay.
Charles J. Cooper, lead counsel for the initiative’s proponents, said in a statement this afternoon that they plan to appeal “promptly.”
“On appeal we look forward with confidence to a decision vindicating the democratic process and the basic constitutional authority of the 7 million Californians who voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage,” Cooper said.
This morning, dozens of same-sex couples lined up outside the county clerk’s office at City Hall, waiting to demand marriage licenses if the stay were lifted immediately.
A separate group that had gathered on the steps outside cheered as they received unofficial word at about 12:20 p.m. that Walker had decided against a long-term stay.
One man carrying a rainbow flag crouched down and began to cry.
The joyful reaction turned to indignation a short time later as the couples learned that the stay would not be lifted immediately. Some had arrived at City Hall early this morning in anticipation of Walker’s decision.
The Proposition 8 sponsors and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, had wanted Walker’s ruling to be suspended throughout the appeal process, which could take months and which could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
They have argued in court filings that they believe they are likely to win their appeal and that a temporary reinstatement of same-sex marriage could cause disruption.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and two same-sex couples who challenged the initiative said in briefs filed Friday that they expect Walker’s ruling to survive the appeal and that allowing same-sex marriages to resume would be in the public interest.
Schwarzenegger said in his filing that permitting gay and lesbian marriages during the appeal process would not create administrative difficulties for the state.
Walker ruled last week that Proposition 8, enacted by a 52 percent majority of voters in 2008, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal treatment.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger released a statement praising Walker’s decision not to grant a long-term stay.
“I am pleased to see Judge Walker lift his stay and provide all Californians the liberties I believe everyone deserves,” he said. “Today’s ruling continues to place California at the forefront in providing freedom and equality for all people.”