High Court lets Same-Sex Marriages in California Continue

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 7/1/2013, 9:05 a.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday refused to stop California from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, turning aside an emergency request ...
Waiting for verdict

By Bill Mears

CNN Supreme Court Producer

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday refused to stop California from issuing same-sex marriage licenses, turning aside an emergency request from supporters of Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that had earlier been dismissed by the justices on narrow, jurisdictional grounds. It is the latest legal and political twist in an issue that has divided the state.

Justice Anthony Kennedy refused to vacate a stay of a decision Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, which had lifted a previous injunction on the ability of gays and lesbians to legally wed. Officials across the state, including the attorney general, quickly began performing same-sex marriages, including those of the two couples who brought the original lawsuit.

Kennedy acted on his own, without consulting the other justices, and offered no explanation for his decision to stay out of the new legal fight. Same-sex marriage opponents had argued the lower courts and state leaders acted too quickly, without allowing the legal appeals process to fully play out.

It all started last week when in a blockbuster ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling Wednesday that private parties do not have "standing" to defend California's voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.

After the appeals court two days later effectively permitted same-sex marriage to resume, supporters of Proposition 8 then asked the Supreme Court over the weekend to intervene. Despite Sunday's order, "traditional" marriage advocates have the option of asking another individual justice, or the entire court, to halt the 9th Circuit's order.

And while many more same-sex marriages are expected to be performed in coming weeks and months, the legal challenges over the issue are also certain to continue.

What angered Prop 8 backers in this fight was the appeals court's bypassing a traditional waiting period. Typically, 25 days must pass before Supreme Court judgments become final, to give the losing side an opportunity to ask for a rehearing. Such rehearing requests are almost always denied, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit decided to act swiftly, without waiting for a certified copy of Wednesday's ruling to be issued.

"Everyone on all sides of the marriage debate should agree that the legal process must be followed," said Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, on Sunday. "The 9th Circuit has failed to abide by its own word that the stay would remain in place until final disposition by the Supreme Court. When courts act contrary to their own statements, the public's confidence in the justice system is undermined."

The Supreme Court's 5-4 opinion last week avoided, for now, a sweeping conclusion on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional "equal protection" right that would apply to all states. But it had the effect of clearing the way for the nation's largest state to move ahead. Thirteen states have now approved of same-sex marriage. Delaware's law takes effect Monday.