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Court Lifts Prop 8 Stay, Letting Weddings Commence Immediately
2013-06-28 06:25:38 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — Just in time for Pride Weekend, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit formally cleared the way for same-sex marriages Friday afternoon.
The court dissolved its stay of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that invalidated Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples. Ninety minutes later, Attorney General Kamala Harris married Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, two of the four plaintiffs who brought the legal challenge, in a City Hall ceremony.
"We didn't want to take any chances" once the Ninth Circuit dissolved the stay, said Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Theodore Boutrous Jr., part of Perry's and Stier's legal team. "They've waited so long."
Friday's order came as a surprise, as just Wednesday the Ninth Circuit seemed to throw cold water on the idea of restarting same-sex marriages before next month.
On Wednesday, a few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 campaign organizers had no standing to appeal Walker's ruling, the Ninth Circuit filed an order stating that "the judgment or mandate of this court will not issue for at least 25 days pursuant to Rule 45." The court even noted that a further stay of the mandate was possible if any parties petitioned for rehearing.
But Attorney General Kamala Harris argued at a news conference that the Ninth Circuit had the power to dissolve its stay even while it processes the mandate.
"This is my plea and I think they'll hear it," she said Wednesday.
She was right. "The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately," said the brief order signed by Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and lone GOP appointee N. Randy Smith.
Prop 8 proponents, who argue that Walker's ruling should be limited to the four plaintiffs in the case, were furious. "We just received word that the Ninth Circuit, without waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision to become final and depriving us of our right to ask for reconsideration, has rushed forward to order same-sex marriage licenses," attorney Andrew Pugno said in a written statement. The order "tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people."
(On Saturday, Pugno and the Alliance Defending Freedom petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the dissolution order, saying the high court -- not the Ninth Circuit -- still held jurisdiction, and the Ninth Circuit had promised previously to stay Walker's ruling until the Supreme Court judgment was final. "This court has a significant interst in supervising the Ninth Circuit and bringing it into compliance," wrote David Nimocks of the Alliance.)
(Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected the petition without comment and without referring it to the full court, and same-sex marriages proceeded all weekend in San Francisco.)
Although Governor Jerry Brown had instructed county clerks to be ready to issue marriage licenses as soon legally possible, there appeared to be some confusion Friday. Harris said she'd been on the phone with Los Angeles County officials just before Perry's and Stier's ceremony, instructing that they accept same same-sex couples immediately.
Celebrating with Perry and Stier were City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Chief Deputy Therese Stewart and other members of the San Francisco legal team who have been litigating same-sex marriage since 2004.
The other two named plaintiffs, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, were to be married Saturday in Los Angeles.
Said Herrera: "I can't think of a better way to start the weeknd."
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