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Gay marriage ban to continue during appeal of Proposition 8

Gay marriages will not resume while the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decides the constitutionality of Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage. A U.S. District Court judge ruled last year that the California initiative is unconstitutional.

March 24, 2011|By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer
  • The state high court has indicated it won't hold hearings on the question of standing until at least September, meaning that the 9th Circuit won't address the constitutional questions until the end of the year at the earliest.
The state high court has indicated it won't hold hearings on the question… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage will remain in effect while a federal appeals court decides whether it violates the Constitution, the appeals panel ruled Wednesday.

Gay rights advocates had asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its hold on resuming same-sex marriage while the court reviews U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker's Aug. 4 ruling that Proposition 8 deprives gay couples of their rights to due process and equal protection.

The 9th Circuit panel had promised last fall to fast-track the appeal but in January sent the case to the California Supreme Court for a procedural ruling that won't be made until the end of this year or later.

Proposition 8, which passed with 52% voter approval in November 2008, limits marriage to heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples from Burbank and the Bay Area sued the governor and other state officials in May 2009, alleging that the voter initiative violates their constitutional rights.

California's governor and attorney general declined to appeal Walker's ruling, agreeing with his judgment that Proposition 8 is discriminatory. Initiative drafters have sought to challenge Walker's ruling in the place of the state officials named as defendants, but the 9th Circuit panel has been stymied by the question of whether they have the right to defend their ballot measure.

Read the document: The full opinion from the three-judge panel

The state high court has indicated it won't hold hearings on the question of standing until at least September, meaning that the 9th Circuit won't address the constitutional questions until the end of the year at the earliest.

In a one-sentence decision, 9th Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N. Randy Smith said they had reviewed the cases cited by the gay-rights advocates pushing for restoration of same-sex marriage and decided to maintain the injunction keeping Walker's ruling from taking effect.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, a party to the effort to resume gay marriage, said it would continue to push the courts to respect that right.

"It is decidedly unjust and unreasonable to expect California's gay and lesbian couples to put their lives on hold and suffer daily discrimination as second-class citizens while their U.S. District Court victory comes to its final conclusion," said foundation board President Chad Griffin.

An attorney for the Proposition 8 supporters, Andrew Pugno, hailed the judges' ruling as justice for voters.

"It's a victory for Proposition 8 supporters and the initiative process as a whole," Pugno said. "People need to have confidence that their vote will count, at least until the courts make a final decision."

carol.williams@latimes.com

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