Judge Keeps California Gay Marriages On Hold
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
The federal judge who struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage today cleared the way for gay weddings to begin in that state but not until next week. Judge Vaughn Walker will allow the marriage ban, known as Prop 8, to remain in effect through next Wednesday.
NPR's Richard Gonzales has been following the case. He joins us from San Francisco. And Richard, there were a lot of couples around California today waiting at city halls and at courthouses to get married. They're going to have to wait longer.
RICHARD GONZALES: That's correct. The judge basically said, in just a few words, that gay marriage still lives, but it's going to take a while. You know that last week, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage here in California, is unconstitutional, but he also put a temporary stay on his decision. He wanted to give supporters of Prop 8 a chance to argue for a permanent stay pending appeals. And in today's ruling, he essentially said that they had not made their case.
But in one sense, he split the difference. He said the request for a permanent stay is denied, but he did not rule that gay marriages could resume immediately, as some supporters of same-sex marriage had hoped. He said that gay marriages may resume on August 18th at 5 p.m. In essence, he gives the supporters of Prop 8 time to appeal.
BLOCK: And how are opponents of same-sex marriage reacting to the judge's ruling today?
GONZALES: Well, the supporters of Prop 8 say that they will appeal immediately to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Douglas Napier is an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the groups who advocate for Prop 8. He says that the net effect is that Judge Walker's ruling will invite chaos. And here's what he had to say:
Mr. DOUGLAS NAPIER (Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund): For him to say, well, I'm going to go ahead and let you run to the courthouse and get married, knowing that this - my decision may likely, or possibly, be reversed leaves a lot of uncertainty, and it's not necessary to do that. Let's settle the law first. Let's settle this issue, and then once all the dust settles on everyone's decisions and we know what the final result is, then we can act.
Mr. RICK JACOBS (Founder and Chairman, Courage Campaign): The other side keeps trying to say that if gays and lesbians marry, the world will end. I just looked outside, and the air is fine.
GONZALES: That second voice you heard is Rick Jacobs. He's the founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, a supporter of gay marriage. He says that the delay of a week for same-sex marriage is not really significant in the long run. However, there may be people who don't agree. There are a lot of folks at San Francisco City Hall, as you mentioned before, who were prepared to tie the knot today, at least a dozen couples were there. They were joined by hundreds of their supporters, and they did go away disappointed that there won't be any marriages today or for the next week, for that matter.
BLOCK: And conceivably, even not then, right, if the Court of Appeals decides, you know what, we're going to extend this stay? Marriages can't go forward right now.
GONZALES: That's correct. There's no guarantee that they will happen on August 18th. This has been a very long drawn-out legal battle dating back six years now. In 2008, the state's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and now that was overturned by Prop 8. Judge Walker ruled that Prop 8 cannot stand.
Come next week, the appeals court could implement its own stay, and it could say that while we consider the question of Prop 8's constitutionality, there should be no more gay marriages. So we will have to wait and see.
BLOCK: Okay, a lot of uncertainty still.
NPR's Richard Gonzales in San Francisco. Thanks so much.
GONZALES: Thank you.
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