Same-sex marriages

California gay-marriage ban ends Wednesday

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said Thursday that California officials could begin issuing licenses to gay men and lesbians beginning Wednesday, in an order flowing from his decision last week striking down a state ban on same-sex marriages.

Walker's order gives opponents of gay marriage six days to appeal and win further postponement of his decision that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

Referring to the 2008 state measure that banned gay marriage, Walker wrote, "Proposition 8 inflicts harm on gays and lesbians in California." He said any significant delay in his Aug. 4 ruling taking effect would "serve only to delay (same-sex couples) access to the remedy to which they have shown they are entitled." The case involves civil, not religious, marriages.

In the momentous decision reverberating nationwide, Walker said the voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equality and due process under law.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had argued the judgment should take effect immediately, rather than waiting for appeals.

"Doing so is consistent with California's long history of treating all people and their relationships with equal dignity and respect," his filing said.

Supporters of Proposition 8 who had defended the measure said the ban should remain during appeals on the case. They contend Walker erred by voiding the measure, which passed with 52% of the vote.

Lawyer Charles Cooper, who represents the Proposition 8 backers, said he would immediately try to get the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to block Walker's new order.

Walker had put out word that a decision would come Thursday, and same-sex couples were waiting at city halls to see whether they might obtain marriage licenses. At City Hall in San Francisco, cheers went up after the news came that Walker intended to lift the hold on his decision. The line to marry inside began to grow. A worker in the registrar's office went down the line handing out forms.

Chuck Mason, 37, and Sean Robinson, 39, of Washington, D.C., were in San Francisco on business and decided to come down to City Hall to await word of whether they could marry.

"We were married in a religious ceremony at home but thought we could get legally married here," Mason said. They were halfway through filling out their form when they heard that Walker's ruling would not take effect until Aug. 18.

"Oh well," Mason said.

(Published by USA Today – August 13, 2010)

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