Same-sex couples in the Coachella Valley and across California will have to wait until at least December before they can get married, a federal appeals court panel ruled today.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced that it would hold a hearing in early December on whether it would even hear an appeal of a judge’s ruling striking down Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ruled Aug. 4 that Proposition 8, which was approved by California voters in 2008, violated the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal protection to all Americans.
Walker put a stay on the ruling, with opponents of same-sex marriage arguing that weddings shouldn’t be permitted until the case is heard by appellate courts to avoid confusion. Walker ruled last week that the stay should be lifted at 5 p.m. Wednesday, pending any intervention by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for ProtectMarriage.com appealed Walker’s decision and asked that a stay remain in effect until the appeal is heard.
The appellate panel indicated today it wants to hear arguments about whether ProtectMarriage.com has legal standing to pursue the appeal. The original defendants in the lawsuit were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, and they have both declined to appeal the case.
The court stated that it would hold a hearing during the week of Dec. 6 in San Francisco.
Until that hearing, same-sex marriages will remain on hold.
George Zander of Equality California in Palm Springs offered words of encouragement to same-sex couples in the Coachella Valley.
“This is a difficult time, but our community has faced difficult times for a long time,” Zander said.
He said he was disappointed by the ruling, but sees opinions about same- sex marriage shifting.
“The overall feelings of people in this sate and this country are moving in our favor,” he said.
“We don’t care what the legal excuse is that the court gave,” said Diane Olson, a plaintiff in the original state-court challenge to Proposition 8 and one-half of the first couple to marry in Los Angeles County in 2008. “I am tired of putting on a happy face every time our feelings get decimated by the court system.”
Her spouse, Robin Tyler, added, “We are tired of our emotions being batted around like ping pong balls. Gays and lesbians are human beings, and there is not one legal reason to delay same-sex marriages in California.”
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.