Hopes for same-sex weddings have once again been put on hold, and for quite a long time ‚Äď possibly not until next year. Although the Aug. 16 decision could be a strategic victory for Proposition 8 opponents. An appeals court has put a stop to legal same-sex weddings for now.
Judge Vaughn Walker, who overturned Prop 8 that revoked marriage equality for queers, had ruled that marriages could resume on Aug. 18, but just two days prior, a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put them on hold, to hear the case the second week of December.
The Appeals Court on Aug. 16 ordered the case to be expedited, because they considered the case to be such a high priority that they put it on the fast track for hearings to begin in December. In a brief, two-page order, the three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - Judges Edward Leavy, Michael Hawkins, and Sidney Thomas - ordered the appellant‚Äôs motion for a stay to keep weddings from resuming to be granted. The marriage hold will continue at least until a scheduled Dec. 6 hearing. The judges also set a deadline of Nov. 1 for both sides to file their written arguments.
‚ÄúFor the time being, the vote of the people has been upheld,‚ÄĚ stated Andy Pugno of protectmarriage.com, proponent of Prop 8. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt always see that. People often get frustrated to see their vote struck down, but today they should be happy.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIn addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing,‚ÄĚ says the order.
Supporters of same-sex marriage say the appeals court has put the matter on the fast track, which they believe helps the cause for equality. ‚ÄúThey even questioned what the parties specifically addressed: why should this case not simply be dismissed, because there is no right to go forward on this appeal,‚ÄĚ said John Lewis of Marriage Equality USA.
Both Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown - named as defendants in the case - have voiced opposition to Proposition 8. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera continues to maintain that Prop 8 supporters have no right to appeal or even ask for a stay.
‚ÄúI cried when I heard the news. This straight ally will not give up the fight. I will do everything I can to see (that) your love gets the recognition it deserves. Until all of us are free, none of us are,‚ÄĚ wrote John, who posted that comment on Courage Campaign‚Äôs Prop 8 Trial Tracker web site, one of 463 comments shared on the site.
‚ÄúIt breaks our hearts as well, John,‚ÄĚ wrote Courage Campaign Director Rick Jacobs. ‚ÄúNo matter the legal justification for the stay, this news is deeply painful for millions of Americans.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúThe very good news is that the 9th Circuit expedited the case for a hearing on December 6 - an unusual fast-tracking of the appeals process and a positive sign of what may come.‚ÄĚ Jacobs added, ‚ÄúStill, this is a difficult reminder that the work to restore marriage equality to California - and to make marriage equality the law across America - will be a roller-coaster full of ups and downs.‚ÄĚ Courage Campaign is re-launching ‚ÄúIt Breaks Your Heart,‚ÄĚ which is a 60-second version of an online video they released last year that was viewed by more than 1.3 million people. Featuring the hit song ‚ÄúFidelity‚ÄĚ by Regina Spektor, the video‚Äôs message is crystal clear: fundamental civil rights should never be put up for a vote. ‚ÄúUltimately, the facts of this case remain unchanged - a federal court has found Proposition 8 unconstitutional and the initiative‚Äôs proponents have admitted in court that they ‚Äėdo not have evidence‚Äô to support second class citizenship for millions of American families,‚ÄĚ said Jacobs.
‚ÄúWe 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,‚ÄĚ stated the plaintiffs‚Äô lawyer, Ted Olson. ‚ÄúAs 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.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt made no sense to impose a radical change in marriage on the people of California before all appeals on their behalf are heard, so the 9th Circuit‚Äôs decision is clearly the right call,‚ÄĚ stated pro-Prop 8 conservative Alliance Defense Fund Litigation Staff Counsel Jim Campbell. ‚ÄúRefusing to stay the decision would only have created more legal confusion surrounding any same-sex unions entered while the appeal is pending. This case has just begun.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe delay is excruciating and heartbreaking I know for the couples, but the ruling did include a significant victory by expediting the case and by highlighting that the proponents have a heavy lift to show they even have the right to bring an appeal,‚ÄĚ said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. ‚ÄúSo those aspects of today‚Äôs ruling do go some way legally to counterbalance the disappointment.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe are pleased that the Ninth Circuit Court is expediting the case against Proposition 8 and is considering whether the groups that placed Prop 8 on the ballot have standing to appeal,‚ÄĚ said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. ‚ÄúWe are extremely disappointed that loving same-sex couples will have to wait to marry, and that we are once again being denied our fundamental rights.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúHowever, we are optimistic for a favorable ruling, and we‚Äôre hopeful that same-sex couples will be able to marry as soon as possible.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThere are many twists in the road to justice, and we are encouraged by the court‚Äôs setting a fast pace for the appeal, revealing that the judges understand how important a quick end to the exclusion from marriage is to gay couples, their loved ones, and all Americans who believe in equality under the law,‚ÄĚ said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. ‚ÄúWhile the lawyers make the case for the freedom to marry in the courts of law, we have more months in which to make our case in the court of public opinion. The evidence at trial overwhelmingly confirmed that there is no good reason for withholding the freedom to marry from committed couples, and the Governor, the Attorney General, a majority of Californians, and a majority of Americans agree with Judge Walker that the freedom to marry helps families, while hurting no one.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúProp 8 should never have been on the ballot, and we look forward to seeing its stain removed from the law books, as we push forward on other fronts across the country.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSo it‚Äôs not what we wanted, but Harvey Milk would want us to keep hope alive,‚ÄĚ said a written statement by Marriage Equality USA. ‚ÄúWe have an amazing legal team (including our friends with the City and County of San Francisco). We have a fact-based district trial court decision that overwhelmingly explains why Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. And we know that eventually we will win.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWith a majority of Americans now supporting marriage equality, it is clear that we are both on the right side of the Constitution, and the right side of history,‚ÄĚ said Jacobs. ‚ÄúIn the meantime, we will continue our work to accelerate the shift that‚Äôs already underway in the court of public opinion by telling America the truth about what was presented in Judge Walker‚Äôs courtroom, and the stories of the millions of American families - both straight and LGBT - who know the destructive power of discrimination first hand.‚ÄĚ