Same-sex couples won't be able to marry this week. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an indefinite stay yesterday, overruling Judge Vaughn Walker's earlier decision to strike down Proposition 8 and allow same-sex marriages to resume on Wednesday.
The three-judge federal appeals court in San Francisco blocked Walker's ruling until it hears broader questions over the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.
"Regrettably, same-sex couples will have to wait longer to get married and are still being denied their fundamental right to do so," writes Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California PACs.
Why was the California gay-marriage ban overturned? Read DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti's answer here.
The good news: The court is expediting the appeals process. The appellants' opening brief is due in one month and the hearing is scheduled for Dec. 6.
"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," says Attorney Theodore B. Olson, who with David Boies is representing the same-sex couples who brought the lawsuit. "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."
"This is lightning quick for a Federal Court of Appeals, and it's a very good sign," reports Prop 8 Trial Tracker. "The Court understands that this case is important, and it doesn't want it to linger." In addition, "the Court specifically orders the Prop 8 proponents to show why this case should not be dismissed for lack of standing … [This] 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."
California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, the state's first openly gay legislative leader, is also optimistic. In a statement issued yesterday, he said: "The fact that the Court is expediting the hearing schedule only underscores the point Judge Walker made in his ruling: LGBT Californians have suffered, and are suffering, from having our constitutional right to equal protection and due process violated every moment Prop 8 remains in effect. This ruling is a reflection on established legal convention, and in no way diminishes the powerful and eloquent statement in defense of our constitutional rights Judge Walker made in his ruling."
What's next? The plaintiffs can appeal the latest decision to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, "who handles emergency motions for the high court," reports The Associated Press.
The reality is that many couples will continue to live in limbo for the next few months.
"My partner and I will be putting our wedding rings back in the drawer for a few more months (or longer) … It's difficult on a personal level to put into words how heartbreaking this is. I hear time and time again from people that things are changing on this issue and it's just a few more weeks (or months or years). But each and every day that we, and all the other same sex couples out there, are denied our right to marry is a violation of our civil rights." (Tara Lohan)
"I feel like the marriage equality yo-yo. But to be honest, my partner and I expected another stay." (Eric Ross)
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.
Currently, same-sex couples are legally allowed to marry in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.