Having ruled that Proposition 8 unreasonably and unconstitutionally deprived gay and lesbian couples of the right to marry, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker should take the natural next step of allowing such marriages to go forward while the case wends its way upward on appeal.
True, this would create another period of uncertainty over the fate of those marriages, the same uncertainty that confronted same-sex couples in 2008 after the California Supreme Court recognized their right to marry even as Proposition 8 threatened to take it away. After the marriage ban was approved by voters, the court ruled that the weddings performed while they were legal — an estimated 18,000 of them — should continue to be recognized by the state.
In Walker's historic ruling last week, he found that same-sex marriage is a federal constitutional right and thus cannot be abridged by Proposition 8, which passed as an amendment to the state Constitution. Now he's trying to decide whether to stay the ruling until supporters of the marriage ban can appeal to a higher court.
Why should Walker subject the state to a new round of marital uncertainty? Because constitutional rights trump that concern. Once Walker handed down his ruling, gay and lesbian weddings became constitutionally protected, at least until a higher court decides otherwise. His ruling should go forward in the absence of any compelling reason to delay.