California U. S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled this week that same-sex couples could begin marrying as early as next week, following his finding earlier this month that overturned the state’s ban on marriage equality.
Same-sex marriages are set to resume in the state Aug. 18, after a nearly two-year hiatus imposed by Proposition 8.
Marriage equality was legal in California from May-November 2008, when voters approved Prop. 8, amending the state constitution to limit the definition of marriage to one man and one woman.
During the several months same-sex marriages were allowed, about 18,000 gay and lesbian couples wed in the state, and a court later upheld the validity of those marriages.
The latest court ruling followed a two-week trial this winter in which two same-sex couples sued the state after being denied marriage licenses because of Prop. 8.
The couples, represented by attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, contended that Prop. 8 violated LGBT individuals’ constitutional rights to equal protection and due process, with which Walker agreed in his Aug. 4 ruling.
Walker’s decision instructed the state to stop enforcing Prop. 8, but the defense filed a motion to stay that portion of the ruling pending their appeal, which they filed the day Walker released his opinion.
On Aug. 12, Walker only extended the temporary stay until Aug. 18, writing that attorneys defending Prop. 8 failed to propose a legitimate reason for continuing to deny marriage equality and also did not demonstrate that the appeals court was likely to overturn his ruling.
Walker said that staying his ruling throughout the appeal process would “force California to continue to violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and would demonstrably harm plaintiffs and other gays and lesbians in California.”
Hours after Walker’s ruling on the stay, Prop. 8 supporters filed an emergency request with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to impose the stay. The appeals court has until Wednesday to rule on the request.
The attorneys suggested in their filing that Walker’s rulings were biased, saying he “ignored virtually everything,” including “judicial authority, the works of eminent scholars … documentary and historical evidence and even simple common sense.”
Olson, however, commended Walker’s decision, noting that the plaintiffs in the trial, who presented testimony from 16 expert witnesses and LGBT individuals, put forth a much stronger case than the defense, who offered just two witnesses.
“The overwhelming evidence at trial established beyond any doubt that Proposition 8 denies gay men and lesbians the fundamental rights to marry and treats them unequally, without any rational basis for doing so, and that it causes them irreparable and immediate harm,” Olson said. “The court’s decision recognizes that there is no reason to delay allowing gay men and lesbians to enjoy the same rights that virtually all other citizens already enjoy.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].