Two days after the US Supreme Court ruled that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal a lower court ruling that found the 2008 ban on gay marriage in California unconstitutional, a federal appeals court lifted a stay it put in place in 2010 and marriages began in that state.
“Today was a fantastic day,” said Sandy Stier on a June 28 conference call with reporters. “We are so thrilled that the court made the decision to lift the stay.”
Stier and her now spouse Kris Perry were one of two couples who sued in federal court in 2009 after California voters approved Prop 8 in a ballot initiative. In 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker, who has since retired, ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Elected officials in California refused to defend the ban and so the ballot initiative’s proponents took on that role. They appealed Walker’s ruling, but a federal appeals panel, which had stayed Walker’s injunction against enforcing Prop 8, ruled against them in 2012.
On June 26, the US Supreme Court ruled the proponents did not have standing to defend the ballot initiative in federal court.
“Because we find that petitioners do not have standing, we have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 5-4 majority.
The appeals panel lifted its stay in a one-sentence order on June 28 and marriages began.
Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, married Perry and Stier in San Francisco’s City Hall. Immediately following the conference call, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, the second couple, were married by Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, on his last day in office.
“Everybody in the building clapped and it was an amazing moment,” Zarrillo said prior to the ceremony, referring to the moment when the couple picked up their marriage license.
The proponents had said they would ask the US Supreme Court to rehear their case, a request that is rarely granted and is made even more unlikely as the court already decided they do not have standing. The proponents had discussed making a challenge in state court.
“The fact that the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay doesn’t affect the judgment issued by the Supreme Court,” said Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., an attorney on the legal team that represented the couples. “Things can still play out in the Supreme Court... You look at the possibility of success in the Supreme Court, it’s zero.”
Boutrous also said that the proponents would not be successful in state court.
“There’s nothing they can do to go into state court,” he said. “There’s a federal injunction that trumps anything anyone could do in state court... I think they should wrap it up and stop trying to prevent people from getting married in California.”
Conservatives were already stinging over the Prop 8 decision and a second decision issued by the US Supreme Court on June 26 that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages.
After the two decisions were released, the Obama administration announced that it would quickly comply with the DOMA ruling. On June 28, the federal Office of Personnel Management issued a guidance telling federal employees in same-sex marriages in any state how to enroll their spouses in employee benefit programs.
The rapid developments on June 28 led the proponents to issue a vicious statement on protectmar
“This outrageous act of judicial tyranny tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption,” the statement said. “Homosexual marriage is not happening because the people changed their mind. It isn’t happening because the appellate courts declared a new constitutional right. It’s happening because enemies of the people have abused their power to manipulate the system and render the people voiceless. The resumption of same-sex marriage this day has been obtained by illegitimate means. If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed. It remains to be seen whether the fight can go on, but either way, it is a disgraceful day for California.”