Aug 09, 2010

Prop 8 Update

Quite a lot has happened in the few days since Judge Walker issued his opinion in Perry v. Schwarzenneger, holding that Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as opposite-sex partners.

Pretty much concurrently with issuing the opinion, Judge Walker also issued a temporary stay that means the ruling doesn't go into effect right away. He asked for written briefs from the parties about whether he should extend the stay until the losers have a chance to appeal the decision, and those were submitted on Friday, August 6. There's no word on when the judge might rule on the issue.

If Judge Walker decides to keep the temporary stay in place, wedding bells will remain silent in the Golden State for some years to come while the case makes its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which has already created a special page for documents related to the Perry case, even though nothing's been filed with them yet) and then, presumably, to the United States Supreme Court. And if he lifts the temporary stay and says that same-sex couples can marry, the other side could appeal that decision to the Ninth Circuit on an "emergency" basis. (Bet you didn't know the possibility of you marrying your same-sex partner could be an emergency, did you?)

Somewhat surprisingly, both Attorney General Jerry Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger asked Judge Walker to lift the stay and allow same-sex couples to begin marrying immediately.

In the plaintiffs' request to lift the stay, attorneys make an interesting argument. During the trial, the actual defendant in the case, the State of California, declined to defend Prop 8 in court. Instead, a group called "defendant-intervenors," consisting of pro-Prop 8 groups and individuals, defended the proposition at trial. The plaintiffs now argue that the defendant-intervenors, because they are not the original defendants, do not have standing--meaning they don't have the right--to bring an appeal. Professor Arthur Leonard explains this much better than I could at his Leonard Link blog, so I direct you there for the full scoop. If Judge Walker and the Ninth Circuit agree with this analysis, then the opinion will stand--good news for California and for the couples who want to marry right away, but not necessarily for anyone who wants to see the Supreme Court rule on same-sex marriage soon.

Stay tuned for further developments.