The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay to same-sex marriage opponents’ request that no nuptials be performed while they appeal Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision overturning Proposition 8.
That means that no same-sex weddings will take place in California at least until December. The plaintiffs in the case say they have no plans to appeal.
The appellate court set an expedited schedule for oral arguments in the case, with oral arguments set for the week of Dec. 6.
The two-page order came this afternoon, two days before same-sex marriages were scheduled to begin again in California after Walker’s decisive ruling overturning the initiative as unconstitutional. He had ordered that state officials stop enforcing Prop 8, but gave until Wednesday until 5 p.m. so the 9th Circuit would have time to weigh in.
Proponents of Prop 8 had argued that allowing marriages to begin would create uncertainty for the couples, who could see their unions invalidated by a higher court decision.
The three-judge appellate panel, which included Edward Leavy, Michael Daly Hawkins and Sidney R. Thomas, did not explain their reasons for granting the stay. But they left unresolved the question of whether the Prop 8 proponents, which include the campaign group ProtectMarriage.com, even have standing to pursue an appeal. The proponents were “intervenors” in the case, not the official defendants. The defendants are Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, both of whom wewre opposed to Prop 8 and declined to appeal Walker’s decision. The 9th Circuit panel cited a 1997 Supreme Court decision in which the justices expressed “grave doubts” that the proponents for an Arizona ballot initiative had standing to pursue their case given they were not directly harmed.
While the order is a disappointment to couples who had been preparing for ceremonies this week, the plaintiffs expressed satisfaction that the appellate court set a schedule for arguments so quickly after the district court ruling.
Ted Olson, who with David Boies is representing two same-sex couples seeking to get married, said in a statement: “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. 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.”
Brown Tweeted a Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
The plaintiffs’ suit is being backed by a group of entertainment industry activists, led by Chad Griffin and including Rob Reiner, Bruce Cohen and Dustin Lance Black, who formed the nonprofit American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Update: Alliance Defense Fund, which is supporting the proponents of Prop 8, issued this statement from staff counsel Jim Campbell.
“It 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’s decision is clearly the right call. Refusing 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. ADF and the rest of the legal team are confident that the right of Americans to protect marriage in their state constitutions will ultimately be upheld.”