A federal appeals court on Monday put a hold on same-sex marriages in California, overruling a federal district judge who had earlier ruled that Proposition 8 — the state’s voter approved ban on gay marriage — was unconstitutional.
The “stay” means same-sex marriages won’t start on Wednesday as thousands of gay and lesbian couples had hoped.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has placed such marriages effectively on hold until December at the earliest, granting a request by proponents of Proposition 8 to delay enforcement of the August 4 court order voiding the ballot referendum.
But in Monday’s order, the judges asked the ballot measure’s lawyers to submit arguments on why they have the legal right to appeal when the state’s top two officials, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown, had refused to defend the law or file an appeal.
In effect, the court is asking the coalition that led the campaign for Proposition 8 to prove they are actually entitled to bring the appeal — that they are, in fact, harmed by gay marriage.
“… the Court specifically orders the Prop 8 proponents to show why this case should not be dismissed for lack of standing. Here’s a discussion of the standing issue … It shows that the Court has serious doubts about whether the Appellants have standing.
Even better, the Court is expressing an opinion that its inclination is that the case should be dismissed. That being said, the panel that issued this Order (the motions panel) is not the same panel that will hear that case on the merits. The merits panel will be selected shortly before December 6th and we don’t know the three judges who will be on the merits panel. But this is a very good sign that the appeal could be dismissed on the ground of standing alone.”
On August 4, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 ruling that it failed to “advance any rational basis” to deny gay men and lesbians a marriage license.
Within hours of handing down his decision, Walker issued a ruling granting a temporary stay of his order, allowing opponents of same-sex marriage time to file appeals. The stay was to be lifted as of Wednesday, August 18, unless the higher court intervened.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, a nonprofit organization created to support the plaintiffs in the case, released this statement in response:
“We are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule. As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books. We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case,” said Attorney Theodore B. Olson.
“Today’s order from the Ninth Circuit for an expedited hearing schedule ensures that we will triumph over Prop. 8 as quickly as possible. This case is about fundamental constitutional rights and we at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, our Plaintiffs and our attorneys are ready to take this case all the way through the appeals court and to the United States Supreme Court,” said Chad Griffin, Board President, American Foundation for Equal Rights.