Ban lifted: Same-sex couples in California may marry

UPDATE: Premature reports had simply said marriage would be immediately available. We now know the following:

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who overturned the measure on Aug. 4, agreed to give its sponsors until Aug. 18 to appeal his ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. No new marriages can take place until then.
The court order is here

Cheers of "Free to marry!" greeted news Thursday that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had declared same-sex couples in California may be married immediately in accordance with the recent ruling of Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. At least for the moment.

Lambda Legal tweeted - or rather retweeted - the word from @freedomtomarry:

Judge Walker lifts stay, and same-sex couples now have the freedom to marry in CA

Live feeds from CBS and CNN captured the moment.

As reported here eight days aqo, Proposition 8 had been ruled unconstitutional by Judge Walker. In his decision, he wrote:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.

So although the case is surely bound for appeal, the question of the moment was whether same-sex marriages might resume for the time-being.

AP notes:

The announcement came after lawyers for gay couples, California Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed legal motions Friday asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.

Those motions were filed two days after Walker struck down California's voter-approved gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. In his 136-page decision, Walker said gay marriages should begin immediately, but he agreed to suspend weddings until he could consider the legal arguments.

A handful of same-sex couples went to San Francisco's City Hall on Thursday morning to fill out marriage license applications in hopes that Walker would allow the nuptials to commence.

As to this last point, L.A. Times bloggers said as of Thursday a.m., things were ready to roll.

Officials are ready to immediately start marrying gay couples once a San Francisco judge lifts the stay to his decision to invalidate Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage in California.

If "the stay is lifted, ceremonies will be performed on a first-come, first-served basis between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday," West Hollywood city officials said in a statement. "Those wanting to get married need to get a license first then can go to Kings Road Park."

If the judge lifts the stay, Mayor Antonio Villaragosa said he plans to start performing marriages Thursday afternoon on the steps of City Hall.

At 11:59 a.m., Twitter user @lwaldal declared:

A guy just walked out of clerk's office and counted the people in line

and, a minute later,

Bunch of people walked into a room on the side -- to be deputized?

Today, Huffington Post blogger William K. Black wrote that "opponents of homosexual marriage are desperate to avoid any trial in which they would be required to support their claims that such marriages would harm heterosexuals' marriages." Black says outspoken critics of gay marriage such as Notre Dame Law School Professor Gerard Bradley are desperate to preserve the illusion of gay marriage as the institutionalizing of a despised and distinctive otherness.

The single most important reason that Americans, particularly Americans under the age of 50, have dramatically reduced their antipathy for gays is that far more gays are now openly gay. Americans increasingly recognize that they are colleagues, friends, and relatives of gays and that gays are normal, rather than the despised "other." Bradley understands that this normalization is the greatest threat to preserving discrimination against gays and is desperate to counter it.

The clock is running out for another reason, too: Same-sex marriage is rapidly being normalized, culturally and legally. Many same-sex couples already consider themselves married, and expect to be treated as such. In many jurisdictions they are -- more or less, depending on how many concessions the law has made to them on adoption, survivors' benefits, and the like.

The Rev. Susan Russell, Chair, Diocesan Program Group on LGBT Ministry
Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles issued this statement:

Today Judge Walker paved the way for both freedom and wedding bells to ring in California.

This ruling in favor of dignity and against discrimination for gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage in California has helped us take one more step forward on the journey to making liberty and justice for all a reality in our nation.

It is a blessing to have civil marriage equality restored in the State of California. And it is a great joy that California clergy will once again have the freedom to choose to offer both equal blessing and equal protection to all couples coming to us to celebrate the sanctity of their marriages.

While we celebrate today’s ruling lifting the stay on marriage equality, we continue to work for the day when the 1138 federally protected rights guaranteed opposite sex couples are also available to same sex couples.

Today’s step forward is not just for the gay and lesbian couples getting married. It is also a cause for celebration for all of those preach family values that value ALL families and who believe that protecting marriage means protecting ALL marriages.

(The Reverend) Susan Russell
Senior Associate,
All Saints Church, Pasadena

Chair, Diocesan Program Group on LGBT Ministry
Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

from California Faith for Equality:


"Today justice won out, said Samuel M. Chu, Executive Director of California Faith for Equality. “Today's decision by US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker to overturn Prop 8 and lift the stay on same gender marriages in the state of California on August 18th is a giant step toward equality.

" The Supreme Court has affirmed that marriage is a fundamental right. Justice Walker, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, last week said that California has no interest in discriminating against same gender couples. On August 18, 2010 discrimination will end and equality will become a reality.

"CFE is committed to let freedom and wedding bells ring! Our membership of over 6000 clergy are poised to perform marriages for loving gay and lesbian couples throughout the state. As people of faith. we believe these are blessed and holy relationships and we are thrilled that they can now be legally recognized marriages in the state of California.

While we realize that today's decision could be overturned by a higher court and we strongly oppose any stay on equal protection for all persons, CFE will continue to organize our faith leaders and secular partners to continue to support all marriages and to value all families.

Samuel M. Chu is available for comment: 310-988-5548
California Faith for Equality is a statewide network of clergy and lay leaders from a diversity of faith traditions who are committed to equality.

Comments (1)

It may be a while before same-sex couples can marry in California. While the state defendants (the Governor and the Attorney General) opposed a stay and are unlikely to appeal the ruling (or the decision), the proponents of Prop 8 were so anxious to get out of Judge Walker's court and on to the appeals court that they filed their motion to stay his decision before it was issued. As a consequence, they did not address key points, according to today's ruling, which lifts the stay as of August 18 at 5pm.

The proponents are likely to file their appeal, and the 9th Circuit Court will need to rule on whether they have standing to appeal (Judge Walker's opinion said that he doubted they did). If the appeals court rules against the standing of the proponents (including, now, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, who are being represented by Advocates for Faith and Freedom), that decision will probably be appealed to the US Supreme Court. Assuming that the appeals court rules promptly on the standing issue, Justice Kennedy will consider the appeal on behalf of the Court.

It may be that the courts will rule that none of the groups appealing have standing to do so. In that case, Judge Walker's order will be implemented only for California, and same-sex marriages will begin here again (and, the higher courts will avoid ruling on the substance of Judge Walker's decision--though, other cases challenging the current law regarding the right to marry will undoubtedly make their way up the line).

Bill Eadie

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