Prop 8 stay denied: Marriages resume on August 18

U.S. District Judge Walker denied a permanent stay on the ruling that overturned Prop 8 last week, but issued a temporary hold until August 18 before same sex marriages can resume in California.

Couples waiting at the city halls hoping to marry today were initially excited by news of the denied stay, then disappointed by the six day delay.

A permanent stay is fairly rare, only used when direct harm would result from applying a ruling and having it overturned on appeal. Supporters of the marriage ban could not show a direct harm to the state, and did not present any valid arguments or credible witnesses during the trial. Their chance of winning an appeal seems slim, according to today's ruling, and the appeals court might not take the case.

When Judge Walker overturned Prop 8 last week, the ban proponents had already filed a pre-emptive appeal. However, they may not have the legal standing to appeal the decision without the primary defendant, the state of California.

In a surprise move, Governor Arnold Swartzeneger and Attorney General Jerry Brown joined the plaintiffs in asking the court to remove the stay and allow the marriages to resume, signaling that they might not appeal the case. With no clear path to appeal, and little chance of winning, there was no reason to delay the ruling permanently.

Next, the state of California decides if it will appeal, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides if it will issue a stay, which could be appealed to the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy handles appeals for the 9th Circuit and can rule on the stay himself or refer it to a 3-judge panel. If a stay is not granted at a higher level, then couples may marry starting at 5 PM on August 18.

Lambda Legal stated that Judge Walker "applied the standard legal tests in the standard way and reached the only logical conclusions given the overwhelming evidence produced at trial: nobody is harmed - especially not the backers of Prop 8 - by restoring equality in marriage to California's same-sex couples. Nobody suffers when everyone is treated equally. There's enough equality to go around.

"To maintain the stay, the Ninth Circuit will have to find that Prop 8's proponents are likely to win on appeal or will suffer irreparable harm if same-sex couples again are allowed to marry. But at this point, the truth is crystal clear, as last week's decision explains: the only people suffering harm are lesbian and gay couples whose constitutional rights are violated every day that Prop 8 remains in force, and who simply seek the same rights everyone else already enjoys."

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