Judge Vaughn Walker's landmark decision that ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional has received a wave of attention from millions of people across America, including many celebrities. Nikki Weiss and Jill Goldstein are two stars of Showtime's popular new reality show The Real L Word, which chronicles the lives of six young lesbians from the Los Angeles area as they try to balance work, love, family, friendship, and other obligations. But in addition to being in the LGBT media spotlight, Nikki and Jill are committed partners planning to tie the knot in California in October. The show has been following their wedding plans as they go through the engagement and the decision-making process, as well as the surprises that unfold along the way. Consequently, Nikki and Jill were enthusiastic about Judge Walker's ruling that California's Proposition 8, which eliminated marriage for gay couples in 2008, is unconstitutional- violating both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"This is a huge, huge step, and such a large victory," Nikki said to The Dish Rag. In addition to the legal impact of the decision, there was an emotional component for them. Jill remarked to TV Guide, "I could tell you that I held my breath for most of the morning," and when the decision was made on Wednesday, August 4, "the tears just started flooding." The legal process is ongoing. Eight days after declaring the proposition unconstitutional, Judge Walker declined to extend the stay he issued on his August 4 ruling. The stay provided Prop 8 supporters with time to appeal his decision, but will be lifted on August 18 at 5PM. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights:
Judge Walker ruled that there is no legal reason to delay letting same-sex couples marry; however, he kept the stay on his ruling in place until August 18. That extra time will allow the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether to let same-sex couples in California marry while the appeal proceeds, or whether to continue the stay until the Ninth Circuit reviews Judge Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.
In practice, this means that the proponents of Prop 8 have a chance to file a motion for stay with the Ninth Circuit, and the Ninth Circuit has a chance to grant or deny that motion, but it must do so by August 18. If it does not, marriages will automatically start again at that time.
The Real L Word is a successful follow-up to the original six-season scripted drama The L Word, which ran from 2004 to 2009. Initially, Ilene Chaiken, creator of both series, expressed surprise at both the similarities and new challenges that the reality version of the show brought with it. Chaiken's creative approach and portrayal of the women have been questioned by some, and Nikki and Jill themselves have had to deal with false rumors and attacks from both from media outlets and individual fans. The couple also had to address an editing issue from the second episode of the show. Still, the media has recognized the couple's willingness to open themselves up to public scrutiny in order to decrease stereotypes and misunderstandings about same-sex relationships. "I hope our story puts a human and very real spin on the situation," said Jill.
According to The Dish Rag, "there was some editing in the second episode to create the impression of drama in their relationship where none exists." But Weiss ended up addressing the small issue in a live stream webcast after that show aired. "Both women joke that their life is so boring, it probably needed some spicing up," the report said.
The L Word franchise has been praised for being one of the first television programs to reflect gay, out female characters as leads. The Root described the debut of the original show as "the first drama to tackle the lives of lesbians," and The Real L Word has undoubtedly carried on its legacy. Hopefully, when marriage equality eventually becomes a reality in California, Nikki and Jill can continue to exercise their influence as prominent figures in the LGBT community.
GLAAD first worked with Nikki Weiss back in 2006 before she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in an episode about women who come out later in life. We commend her continued commitment to promoting equality through telling her own personal story. We also send Nikki and Jill best wishes as they continue planning for their fall wedding.
You can catch the season finale of The Real L Word this Sunday night on Showtime at 10 PM.