Riverside County clerks will be ready to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples depending on what happens on August 18.
“Our goal is to follow the law and to accommodate our customers the best we can,” said Larry Ward, the assessor, clerk, recorder for Riverside County.
Supporters of same-sex marriage advised gay couples to act quickly, because even if the judge gives his OK, an emergency appeal could again put the brakes on.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco ruled last week that Proposition 8, approved by California voters in 2008, violated the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal protection to all Americans.
He ruled Thursday to keep a stay on the marriages until August 18 to give opponents of the case time to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals.
Ward said marriage license applications could be completed and processed soon after any decision goes into effect. The offices will be limited on the number of ceremonies that can be performed, but he has directed clerks to issue licenses “whether or not (couples) have an appointment.”
“I’ve been advising people to get all their ducks in a row if they want to get married,” said George Zander of Equality California in Palm Springs.
He said several couples have been asking him about what to do if and when there is a favorable ruling. His advice: “Point your car to Indio and if this happens, go ahead and get out there.”
In last Wednesday’s 136-page ruling, Walker wrote that the proposition “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”
But he granted a temporary a stay on the ruling at the request of Proposition 8 supporters, who said allowing couples to marry pending the appeal would create confusion if Walker’s ruling is eventually overturned.
Supporters of Proposition 8 are appealing the decision, and whichever way the appeal goes, the case is expected to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In March 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.
Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
The approval of the measure led to statewide protests and lawsuits challenging the legality of Proposition 8.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 would remain valid.