In five days, same-sex couples in California can legally get married again. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker lifted a temporary stay that now allows same-sex marriages to resume on Wednesday at 5 p.m. (Pacific Time), unless a higher court intervenes. Last week, Walker struck down California's Proposition 8, finding it unconstitutional, but ordered the ban to temporarily remain intact until he heard arguments.
During this time, Prop. 8 sponsors can appeal Walker's ruling to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Los Angeles Times, which could issue its own stay and stop marriage licenses from being issued.
The nation is watching closely as this case unfolds because the decision could place same-sex unions on equal footing with conventional marriages.
Yesterday's news follows motions filed a week ago by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, who have refused to use their offices to defend discrimination and requested the stay be lifted and same-sex marriages be allowed to proceed.
"Our victory today is due in no small part to the State of California's stance on the case. Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown both asked the court to lift the stay and allow marriages to commence. Both have refused to defend Prop. 8 in court, preventing the State's talented attorneys and vast legal resources from playing a role in this case," states Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California PACs.
Several same-sex couples appeared at San Francisco's City Hall yesterday to fill out marriage-license applications "in hopes that Walker would allow the nuptials to commence," reports The Associated Press.
Why was the California gay-marriage ban overturned? Read DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti's answer here.
During the 13-day Prop. 8 trial, anti-gay-marriage supporters argued that a ban would undermine the institution of marriage and that children are better served with opposite-sex parents. Walker's decision, based heavily on testimony that demonstrated otherwise, found gay marriage does not diminish heterosexual marriage.
"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote in his 136-page opinion. "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."
In a CNN report, Walker added: "Race restrictions on marital partners were once common in most states [too] but are now seen as archaic, shameful or even bizarre."
Prop. 8 is a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2008 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The vote came five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and roughly 18,000 couples had wed.
California state and local governments could have gained $63.8 million over three years from tens of thousands of same-sex marriages, calculates UCLA's The Williams Institute. Over the same timeframe, spending on weddings would have boosted the state's economy by more than $683.6 million and created 2,178 new jobs.
What Are Gay Activists and Allies Saying?
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese: "Ending the enforcement of this discriminatory and unconstitutional law will once again treat same-sex couples as full citizens of California. We look forward to the day when this becomes the permanent and unassailable reality for every family."
From a Sacramento Bee reader: "Prior to the last time same-sex marriage was legal in this state, I, a heterosexual male, married my heterosexual female wife. After gay marriage was legalized, we were still married. Then, after Prop. 8 passed (despite my vote against it), we were still married. Now, after the ruling that the proposition is unconstitutional, we remain awash in wedded bliss. How does same-sex marriage affect traditional marriage? Please, enlighten me!"
Courage Campaign Founder/Chairman Rick Jacobs: "Today's ruling means that in less than one week, equality under the law will be restored for millions of loving families across California. Lifting the stay is ultimately consistent with both legal precedent and the findings in this case."