“The stay in the above matter is dissolved immediately.”
And with that single sentence, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for gay marriages to begin again in California, lifting its stay on an earlier injunction ordering officials to stop enforcing California’s Proposition 8.
Spokesmen had initially said it could take at least 25 days to act following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday that deferred judgment to an earlier court ruling that had declared the 2008 ballot initiative unconstitutional. Voters passed the initiative just six months after the California Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians had the right to marry in the state.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) ordered his public health agency to allow counties to “begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”
A celebration began. Gay and lesbian couples began flocking to city halls, many of which have announced extended hours and civil ceremony services over the next 60 days to handle the expected traffic. State officials began making a flurry of calls to different counties and registrars, hastily laying the groundwork for the flood of marriage license requests expected in the coming weeks. “We did not know the decision was coming today,” said Los Angeles Country Registrar-Recorder/Clerk Dean Logan. “There’s a lot to be happy about, and we certainly share in that happiness. We just want to be sure that our job is done correctly and that we have adequate resources to serve the public.”
Proposition 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, and Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, following Friday’s early and unexpected lift on the stay, became the first same-sex couples to marry in the state in four and a half years. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris married Perry and Stier in San Francisco’s City Hall. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa married Katami and Zarrillo in LA’s City Hall.
“We are here today to celebrate the beautiful relationship between Kris Perry and Sandy Stier,” Harris said to the packed chamber. “Today we witness not only the joining of Kris and Sandy, but the realization of their dreams of marriage…representing thousands of couples like themselves.”
“It couldn’t come a moment too soon,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. “What extraordinary timing, right before Pride weekend. All that time, all that struggle, and the moment has arrived.”
But there remain a few frowning faces in a pride-packed state. Representatives from ProtectMarriage, the group defending Prop 8, were furious that the Ninth Circuit Court had bypassed the 25-day window and lifted its stay. “It is part and parcel of the utter lawlessness in which this whole case has been prosecuted,” said John Eastman, a Chapman Law School professor. “Normally, courts let the parties kind of pursue their legal remedies before they issue a mandate.”
“This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness,” added ProtectMarriage’s general counsel, Andy Pugno, “by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption.”
But even amidst utter lawlessness people were happy, certificates were filed, couples were wed, and wedding bells rang. And at long last, the tireless Prop 8 plaintiffs reached the end of a long, difficult, and public fight. As Newsom noted, just in time for Pride weekend.
“By joining the case against Proposition 8,” Harris said, “they represented thousands of couples like themselves in their fight for marriage equality. Through the ups and downs, the struggles and the triumphs, they came out victorious.”
“By virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the state of California, I now declare you spouses for life.” The brides kissed. City Hall erupted. And Proposition 8 faded into history, once and for all.