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BREAKING: U.S. appeals court in Calif. lifts hold on same-sex marriages

BREAKING: U.S. appeals court in Calif. lifts hold on same-sex marriages

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Friday cleared the way for the state of California to immediately resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a 4 1/2-year freeze.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order saying it has dissolved a stay it imposed on gay marriages while a lawsuit challenging the state’s voter-approved ban on such unions worked its way through the courts.

Noah Berger, AP
Rainbow flags fly in front of San Francisco City Hall, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said city officials were preparing to let couples marry right away.

Just minutes after the appeals court issued its order, the two lead plaintiffs in the case were standing in line at San Francisco City Hall to get a marriage license. They planned to wed at 4:15 p.m., with state Attorney General Kamala Harris officiating, according to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the lawsuit.

“On my way to SF City Hall. Let the wedding bells ring,” Harris tweeted after the 9th Circuit issued its order.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday that the sponsors of California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban lacked authority to defend Proposition 8 in court once Harris and Gov. Jerry Brown refused to do so.

The decision lets stand a trial judge’s declaration that the ban violates the civil rights of gay Californians and cannot be enforced.

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has 25 days to ask the high court to rehear the case. The court said earlier this week that it would not finalize its ruling in the Proposition 8 dispute until after that time had elapsed.

It was not immediately clear whether the appeals court’s action would be halted by the high court.

The Ninth Circuit Court’s order is here (PDF).

Developing story, check back for frequent updates.

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