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California Same-Sex Weddings Allowed to Begin Aug. 18

Gay Marriage in California is Reinstated by Judge
About 18,000 gay couples married in California before Proposition 8 was passed. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Same-sex weddings in California can begin on Aug. 18, a federal judge ruled, saying he saw no reason to delay for more than a few days enforcement of his earlier decision allowing gay marriage.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco yesterday denied a request by supporters of the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to suspend his Aug. 4 order while they appeal. Proponents of the ban filed an emergency request yesterday asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco to put Walker’s ruling on hold.

“None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay,” Walker wrote in yesterday’s ruling. “The court denies a stay except for a limited time solely in order to permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner.”

Proponents of the amendment, known as Proposition 8, said in court filings that delay was required because it’s likely they will prevail on appeal and because of “the possibility of irreparable harm” should the decision take effect immediately. The case may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Charles Cooper, the lead lawyer for proponents of the ban, said in a filing with the appellate court yesterday that there’s no harm to same-sex couples in putting their marriage rights on hold while the appeal is resolved.

“A stay will at most subject plaintiffs to a period of additional delay pending a final determination of whether they may enter a legally recognized marriage relationship,” he wrote. “During this time, plaintiffs will have access to the rights and responsibilities of marriage through domestic partnership,” as provided by California law.

Proponents Unpersuasive

Proponents of Proposition 8 weren’t persuasive that a stay should be granted because they failed to prove a good chance of success on appeal, Walker ruled. They didn’t fulfill their requirement to show they will be harmed by the original ruling, the judge said.

The Proponents argued “that they have an interest in defending Proposition 8 but failed to articulate even one specific harm they may suffer as a consequence” of the order striking down the measure, Walker wrote.

Walker also said it’s doubtful proponents of the ban will be able to proceed on appeal because they don’t have a “state defendant” on their side. They may have to resort to persuading California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or Attorney General Jerry Brown to file the appeal to get the case heard, Walker said. Both Schwarzenegger and Brown submitted court filings opposing the stay.

Brown today reiterated Walker’s arguments in a filing to the appeals court opposing the proponents’ request for a stay.

The request “ignores the fact that there has now been a trial on the merits that conclusively demonstrated that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional,” Brown said in the filing.

‘Same Rights’

The court’s decision “recognizes that there is no reason to delay allowing gay men and lesbians to enjoy the same rights that virtually all other citizens already enjoy,” Theodore B. Olson, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of same-sex marriage, said in an e-mailed statement.

Since Proposition 8 passed in 2008 by 52 percent of California’s voters, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Massachusetts did so in 2004.

The three judges assigned to review the request to suspend Walker’s ruling are Edward Leavy, nominated by President Reagan and confirmed in 1987; and Michael Hawkins and Sidney Thomas, both nominated by President Clinton and confirmed to the appeals court in 1994 and 1996, respectively, according to the website for the San Francisco-based appellate court.

“I am pleased to see Judge Walker lift his stay and provide all Californians the liberties I believe everyone deserves,” Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “Today’s ruling continues to place California at the forefront in providing freedom and equality for all people.”

‘Overwhelming Evidence’

Walker said in his original decision that the plaintiffs, the city of San Francisco and two couples, demonstrated by “overwhelming evidence” that Proposition 8, passed by the state’s voters to upend a state Supreme Court decision, violates rights to equal protection under the law guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. He prohibited California’s officials from standing in the way of same-sex marriages.

“Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians,” Walker wrote. “The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples” and violates constitutional protections because it “disadvantages gays and lesbians without any rational justification.”

About 18,000 gay couples married in California before Proposition 8 was passed. As of 2006, there were an estimated 109,000 gay couples in California, more than any other state, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the University of California, Los Angeles.

The case is Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 09-02292, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The appeal is Perry v. Schwarzenenegger, 10-16696, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).

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