SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday reopened the door to gay marriage in California.
Following are five things to know about how the ruling affects same-sex couples in the state:
The court’s 5-to-4 majority ruled the sponsors of California‘s voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8, did not have legal authority to defend the measure once state officials refused to do so. In so doing, the justices let stand a lower court decision that invalidated Proposition 8 as a violation of the civil rights of gay Californians.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris already have informed California‘s 58 county clerks that they must issue marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as certain procedural steps are taken by the courts. For example, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must rescind its 2009 order requiring the state to continue enforcing Proposition 8 while the case remained on appeal.
Whither the Weddings
The 9th Circuit said it would not clear the way for weddings for at least 25 days, which is how long Proposition 8 sponsors have to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on their standing to defend the initiative. It’s unlikely the high court would grant such a rehearing.
Further complicating matters is that lawyers for the ban’s backers insist the high court’s decision only legalized marriages for the two couples who sued to overturn Proposition 8. They could go back to court to argue that point and potentially further delay statewide gay marriage.
Newlyweds No More
During the five-month window in 2008 between the time gay marriage was legalized in California and Proposition 8 passed, an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA-based think tank. The California Supreme Court upheld the validity of those marriages in 2009, and nothing in Wednesday’s decision changes that.
Assuming the lower court decision applies to more than two couples , same-sex couples who were legally married in another state would have their marriages recognized if they move to California. Proposition 8 prevented the state from either sanctioning same-sex marriages or recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
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