Thursday, August 12, 2010
A decision on whether same-sex marriages will be allowed to resume in California is expected today, but even if a federal judge gives his OK, an emergency appeal could again put the brakes on.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco -- who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and is gay himself -- ruled last week that Proposition 8, approved by California voters in 2008, violated the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal protection to all Americans.
He said he will rule today on whether to lift a stay, which would allow same-sex unions to resume.
But opponents said that if the ruling goes against them, they will immediately filed an appeal, which could leave the stay in place until the appeal is considered.
In last Wednesday's 136-page ruling, Walker wrote that the proposition "both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."
But he granted a temporary a stay on the ruling at the request of Proposition 8 supporters, who said allowing couples to marry pending the appeal would create confusion if Walker's ruling is eventually overturned.
Supporters of Proposition 8 are appealing the decision, and whichever way the appeal goes, the case is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In March 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.
Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
The approval of the measure led to statewide protests and lawsuits challenging the legality of Proposition 8.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 would remain valid.