Judge: California gay marriages can resume on Aug. 18

Judge Vaughn Walker in his chambers at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, Calif.
Judge Vaughn Walker in his chambers at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, Calif.
PAUL CHINN / AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento Bee

U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker Thursday declined to continue a stay on his finding that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex marriages to resume after Aug. 18 unless the measure's defenders quickly obtain a stay from a higher court.

Attorneys defending Proposition 8 have said they would seek an immediate stay from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. If that fails, they have said they will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to obtain a permanent stay pending appeal.

Private attorneys defending Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage, filed an appeal last Thursday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal.

They are challenging Walker's finding the day before that Proposition 8 violates gays' federal constitutional right to equal protection and due process.

A randomly selected three-judge 9th Circuit panel will likely be convened to review Walker's finding and the evidence presented during a trial earlier this year. The federal trial lasted more than two weeks in Walker's courtroom in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. A private team of attorneys defending Proposition 8 argued that voters had rational fears of the consequences and social and family changes that might occur with same-sex marriage.

The plaintiffs' attorneys argued before Walker that moral disapproval and prejudice was behind Proposition 8, and that the defense showed to rational reason to justify denying gay couples a fundamental right such as marriage.

The case is likely destined for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Proposition 8, which 52 percent of voters passed in November 2008, amends California's state constitution to declare that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Before voters approved the measure, about 18,000 gay couples were married after the California Supreme Court ruled in May 2008 that it was unconstitutional not to allow same-sex couples to marry. The passage of Proposition 8 halted same-sex marriages and the state's highest court ruled that California voters had the right to amend their constitution.

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