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California Marriages on Hold; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Prop 8 Proponents Motion to Stay

By GLAAD |
August 16, 2010

Breaking News on Prop 8: The Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals has decided to stay U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that committed gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marriage, CNN reports. "The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, trumps [U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's] order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday," reports the Associated Press.

This evening GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios reacted to the decision, releasing this statement:

“During the trial, Judge Walker and the public heard first hand from same-sex couples about the harms Proposition 8 inflicts on so many California couples and families. It is their stories of courage and struggle that continues to build support for marriage equality. We call on our nation's media to highlight stories of the hardships faced by California couples without equal protection under the law."

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which represents the plaintiff couples in the Prop 8 case, issued this release following today's ruling:

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set a highly expedited schedule for briefing and argument of proponents' appeal from the district court's August 4, 2010 decision striking down California's Proposition 8 as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to due process and equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, and it granted proponents' request to stay the judgment of the district court's order while the appeal is decided.  This means that although Californians who were denied equality by Proposition 8 cannot marry immediately, the Ninth Circuit, like the district court, will move swiftly to address and decide the merits of Plaintiffs' claims on their merits.  Today's order can be found here: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/9th-circuit-ruling-on-motion-for-stay-pending-appeal/

"We are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule.  As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books.   We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case,” said Attorney Theodore B. Olson.

“Today’s order from the Ninth Circuit for an expedited hearing schedule ensures that we will triumph over Prop. 8 as quickly as possible.  This case is about fundamental constitutional rights and we at the American Foundation for Equal Rights, our Plaintiffs and our attorneys are ready to take this case all the way through the appeals court and to the United States Supreme Court,” said Chad Griffin, Board President, American Foundation for Equal Rights.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights and plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo challenged Proposition 8 in federal court for violating the U.S. Constitution. After a three-week trial (including the testimony of 17 plaintiffs’ witnesses, among them the foremost experts on the relevant issues, and thousands of pages of documents and a wealth of other evidence) the Court ruled last Wednesday, August 4, that Proposition 8 violated the rights to equal protection under the law and due process that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to every American.

Please see the comprehensive, 136-page decision here: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/legal-filings/district-court-decision/

A summary of the trial is available here: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/press-releases/perry-v-schwarzenegger-trial-summary/

Video evidence and other court filings are available here: http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/our-work/legal-filings/

And here's reaction from the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Prop 8 proponents’ motion to stay Judge Walker’s decision, which means that same-sex couples in California will not be able to marry while the case is on appeal.  But the Ninth Circuit put the appeal on a fast track and specifically directed the Prop 8 proponents to address “why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing” in their opening brief.  That means the Court will consider whether the proponents of Prop 8 have the right to file an appeal at the same time that it is considering whether Judge Walker’s decision that Prop 8 violates the federal constitutional is legally correct.

All the briefing must be completed by November 1, 2010 and the oral argument will take place the week of December 6, 2010.

Proponents’ opening brief is due September 17.  The plaintiffs’ opposing brief is due October 18.  The proponents’ reply brief is due November 1.

The Ninth Circuit is not required to issue its decision within any particular time frame after oral argument; however, when an appeal is expedited, the Court tends to issue decisions more quickly.  That said, it is still likely to take at least a few weeks or months after the oral argument in December for the Court to issue a decision.

Once the Ninth Circuit rules, the losing side can ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.  The Supreme Court then has discretion to take the case or to let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

Statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

"Every additional day that couples must wait to marry again in California is painful, but despite the terrible disappointment for the many couples whose right to marry has been delayed yet again, today’s ruling includes another significant victory for our side. The court did the right thing by putting the case on a fast track and specifically ordering that Prop 8 proponents show why they have a legal right to appeal. This ruling brings us one step closer to ending the nightmare of Prop 8, and restoring full equality for all Californians."

Check back with glaad blog tomorrow morning for a full recap of news reports about this decision along with our analysis of the coverage.