Prop. 8: Court officials await green light for gay marriages

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris discusses the Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Despite calls from state officials for same-sex marriages in California to resume immediately, federal court procedures mean it could be nearly a month before gay couples in the state can say “I do” and be recognized as married.

Just before noon Wednesday, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urged the federal appeals court at a news conference to lift its stay on a 2010 lower court ruling declaring Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

The court’s normal process is “to wait to be notified of the judgment by the clerk of the Supreme Court. That won’t happen until the 25-day period expires. Once the judgment is received, the panel that decided the case will take action,” David J. Madden, an appeals court official, told The Times.


Madden said the court had not received any legal paperwork from Harris asking them to expedite the process.

The ruling on Prop 8, although entirely procedural, set off celebrations statewide. It had the effect of upholding the decision of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down the proposition in 2010 and ruled for gay marriage.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative who is devoted to proper legal procedure, wrote the opinion that effectively upheld Walker’s sweepingly liberal opinion. It means California almost certainly will become the 13th state where gay marriage is legal.

As Roberts saw it, two gay couples had sued, seeking a right to marriage as a matter of equal rights. In Walker’s court, “they had won — and state officials chose not to appeal,” Roberts said.

At that point, the case was over because the sponsors of the ballot measure are private citizens who do not speak for the state, Roberts ruled.

Once the appeals court acts, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered all 58 counties in California to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “In light of the decision, I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the 9th Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”

Harris urged the federal appeals court “in the strongest terms” to act before the 25 days pass “so that marriages can begin in California immediately.”

“As soon as they lift that stay, marriages are on,” she said. “The wedding bells will ring.”


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