A federal appeals court put same-sex weddings in California on hold indefinitely Monday while it considers the constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban.
The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, trumped a lower court judge’s order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday.
Attorneys for sponsors of the voter-approved measure applauded the decision. In seeking the emergency stay, they had argued that allowing same-sex marriage while the case was on appeal would create legal chaos if the ban is eventually upheld.
“I think the basic notion that this case is not final until it’s gone through the complete appellate process really prevailed,” said Douglas Napier, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal firm.
“Rather than have this kind of ping-pong effect of having the decision overturned, appealed and then overturned again, it’s better to have this kind of decision,” he said.
Under the timetable laid out Monday, it was doubtful a decision would come down from the 9th Circuit before next year.
A different three-judge panel than the one that issued Monday’s decision will be assigned to decide the constitutional question that many believe will eventually end up before the Supreme Court and further delay a final outcome.
County clerks throughout the state had been preparing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time since Proposition 8 passed in November 2008. The measure amended the California Constitution to overrule a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex unions earlier that year.
“I’m sad, but I’m also glad that I didn’t pay the $100 to reserve an appointment at the clerk’s office,” said Thea Lavin, 31, of San Francisco, who had planned to wed her partner, Jess Gabbert, 30, if the stay were denied. “This has happened so many times before where we take two steps forward, one step back.”
Currently, same-sex couples can legally wed only in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
Seriously though, the LGBT community must be tired of their on again off again relationship with the government. This is one situation where somebody is going to be sad no matter what decision is made, so make one already.