California gay couples revel in marriage rights

Opposition dealt another Supreme Court setback

As more than a million supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in San Francisco for a gay pride parade Sunday, California county clerks continued issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, while opponents suffered another defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court.

An emergency petition aimed at stopping gay marriage in California was denied by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on Sunday. The denial reduces, but does not end, the legal options to save Proposition 8, according to its supporters.

Meanwhile, newly married gay couples jubilantly joined the gay pride parade in San Francisco, where an estimated 1.5 million people gathered Sunday.

Plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier rode in a car with a “just married” sign along a cheering parade route. Newlyweds Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, and well as other gay-rights leaders such as Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, and Evan Wolfson, of Freedom to Marry, were also feted.

Gay pride parades and marches also occurred in cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle and Minneapolis.

California county clerks opened Saturday and Sunday to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for gay marriages to commence Friday.

Supporters of Proposition 8, however, said the 9th Circuit Court acted improperly — that it was to have waited some 25 days for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its final order.

On Saturday, lawyers with ProtectMarriage.com and Alliance Defending Freedom filed an emergency petition with Justice Kennedy, asking him to direct the 9th Circuit Court to again enforce Proposition 8, and prevent gay marriages.

On Sunday, Justice Kennedy ruled against the petition, without additional comment.

Disappointed lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom said the decision meant that “the rule of law” was bypassed in the Proposition 8 case.

The decision not to intervene with the 9th Circuit Court was not unexpected by other legal observers.

“I think that the petition was a very long shot, given all that has occurred and the 9th Circuit’s power to dissolve its own stay,” said Carl W. Tobias, a professor at University of Richmond School of Law.

“I doubt there is much recourse in California for the Proposition 8 supporters,” he added, as the 9th Circuit Court is the highest federal court there, and the state courts are unlikely to entertain a petition.

Proposition 8, which was passed by 52 percent of California voters in 2008, said only marriages between one man and one woman were valid in the state.

Two gay couples sued to overturn it in a case known as Hollingsworth v. Perry. They won in federal district court, and also at the 9th Circuit Court.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, said supporters of Proposition 8 did not have standing to appeal the federal appellate ruling.

As part of their ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling of the 9th Circuit Court.

California state officials said this meant that the lower court ruling went into effect once the 9th Circuit Court acted — and the appellate court did not have to wait 25 days to act, state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said last week. The appellate court agreed with Ms. Harris, and gave the green light for marriages late Friday night.

Conservative groups trying to save Proposition 8 have talked about legal options, such as having county clerks sue to uphold the law, or challenge the power of a lone federal judge to overturn a state law, especially one passed by voters.

None of those actions has occurred yet, however, and Ms. Harris said she would take legal action against any California clerk who tried to block gay marriages.

Once the 9th Circuit Court lifts its stay, the attorney general said at her news conference, “The remaining law of the land for California are the words of Judge Vaughn Walker, who said that under equal protection and due process, Prop 8 is unconstitutional and therefore every one of the 58 counties will be enjoined from enforcing this unconstitutional law.”

“Marriages are on,” said Ms. Harris. “The wedding bells will ring.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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