- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

The federal judge who struck down California’s gay-marriage ban said Thursday that same-sex weddings can resume next week unless an appeals court intervenes before then.

The news raised hopes among gay couples that they soon will be able to tie the knot after years of agonizing delays.

Judge Vaughn Walker gave opponents of same-sex weddings until Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. to get a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether gay marriage should resume. Gay marriages could happen at that point or be put off indefinitely depending on how the court rules.

Walker struck down the state’s voter-approved gay marriage ban last week in a case many believe is destined for the Supreme Court.

Dozens of gay marriage supporters who had gathered outside San Francisco’s City Hall, a block from the federal courthouse, erupted in cheers when the decision came out. The crowd included a handful of same-sex couples who had arrived early Thursday morning to fill out marriage license applications in hopes that the judge would allow nuptials to commence immediately.

Teresa Rowe, 31, and her partner, Kristin Orbin, 31, said they were still happy with the decision even though the ceremony didn’t happen.

“It’s sad that we have to wait a little longer, but it’s been six years,” Rowe said.

In his original ruling, Walker moved to suspend gay weddings until he could consider arguments from both sides on whether the marriages should be allowed during an appeal of his ruling. He now says gay marriageshould resume, but he gave conservatives the extra time to get the appeals court to weigh in.

Charles J. Cooper, lead counsel for the Proposition 8 supporters, said his legal team intends to ask the appeals court to immediately impose a stay of Walker’s ruling, a move that would halt gay marriages while the case is pending before the 9th Circuit.

California voters passed Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had tied the knot.

Three people protested among the crowd to oppose Walker’s ruling Thursday.

“It’s a really sad day for Californians, for families, for our future and for voters that a federal judge has trampled on the civil rights of voters,” said Luke Otterstad, 24, of Sacramento.

Lawyers for gay couples, California Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed legal motions Friday asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.

Walker said on Thursday that ban proponents didn’t convince him that anyone would be harmed by allowing same-sex marriages to resume.

“The evidence at trial showed, however, that Proposition 8 harms the state of California,” Walker said.

Story Continues →