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9th Circuit: Same-Sex Marriages Can Resume in California

Prop 8 Plaintiffs To Marry in San Francisco

Same-sex marriages can resume immediately in California, after the 9th Circuit on Friday lifted a stay following the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the merits of upholding the state’s ban on gay nuptials.

The high court ruled 5-4 on Wednesday that proponents of Prop. 8 did not have standing to appeal a trial court ruling that the initiative was unconstitutional. Although it is usually 25 days before a Supreme Court decision is finalized — meaning that the first marriages in the state would not take place until next month — the 9th Circuit decided to lift the stay earlier.

“The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately,” the court said.

The case was launched by a group of entertainment industry activists in November 2008, shortly after the passage of Proposition 8 put a halt to same-sex weddings in the state that had started the previous June.

Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris had urged the 9th Circuit to lift the stay immediately. “Gay and lesbian couples have waited for so long for this day and for their fundamental right to marry,” she said in a statement. “Finally, their loving relationships are as legitimate and legal as any other.”

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the org of entertainment and political activists set up to pursue the case at the federal level, said two of the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (pictured far right), would be the first couple to get married in California since the passage of Prop 8. Harris will officiate in a ceremony scheduled for Friday afternoon. “Today, we are indeed more American,” said the org’s executive director, Adam Umhoefer.

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, said the 9th Circuit “has rushed forward to order same-sex marriage licenses.”

“This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption,” he said in a statement. “The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means.”

Passed in the general election in November, 2008, Proposition 8 quickly ignited a backlash that helped galvanize LGBT activists and signaled a shift to a more aggressive strategy of seeking same-sex marriage rights. The proposition itself became a cultural touchstone, engaging many more people after it passed than in the campaign against it beforehand. Many Hollywood figures became engaged in the effort to repeal the initiative, including Jack Black and John C. Reilly, who appeared in a YouTube hit called “Prop 8, The Musical,” as well as many celebrities who appeared at rallies in the wake of the vote. Industry figures such as David Geffen, Steve Bing and Norman Lear donated millions to the legal effort, and Rob Reiner and his political consultant, Chad Griffin, helped organize the foundation and enlist Ted Olson and David Boies to pursue the litigation.

Update:  Stier and Perry were married just before 5 p.m. at San Francisco City Hall, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo were scheduled to wed in Los Angeles City Hall on Friday evening, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officiating. “They have waited, hoped and fought for this moment,” Harris said at the ceremony. “Today their wait is over.”

On a conference call, Theodore Boutrous, one of the attorneys challenging Prop 8, rejected suggestions from the initiative’s proponents that the 9th Circuit’s decision to lift the stay was premature. He said that there was “no chance” that the authors of Prop 8 would be granted a rehearing. “It is over. People are getting married. People are having a great day.” While proponents have cried foul over the speed with which the plaintiffs obtained marriage licenses, Boutrous said that the two couples had been prepared for the possibility and that he himself had been in San Francisco by chance in a separate case. The ban on same-sex marriage “is now over in California, and no one can take it away,” said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign.

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