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Gay marriage in California won't resume for now, appeals court rules

March 23, 2011 |  1:06 pm

Gay marriage won't be allowed to resume until state and federal appeals courts decide the fate of Proposition 8, the voter initiative that limited marriage to heterosexual couples, three federal judges ruled Wednesday.

Gay-rights advocates had asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the hold put on a San Francisco federal judge's ruling last year that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and said California authorities should cease enforcing it.

Interactive: Track changes in rights for same-sex couples in the U.S.

That ruling was stayed by the judge who made it, U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, and the injunction was kept in place when the 9th Circuit said last fall that it would put the appeal by Proposition 8 backers on a fast track.

But the appeals court in January turned to the California Supreme Court with a question about whether those who drafted the initiative banning same-sex marriage have the right to appeal Walker's ruling in place of the original defendants, the governor and attorney general, who have refused to defend the ballot measure, which they deem discriminatory.

The state high court has indicated it won't hold hearings on the question of standing until at least September, meaning that the 9th Circuit won't address the case again until the end of the year or later.

In a terse denial of the latest effort to restore the right of gays and lesbians to marry, 9th Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N. Randy Smith said they had reviewed the cases cited by the gay-rights advocates but decided to maintain the injunction against Walker's ruling.

The American Federation for Equal Rights, a party to the effort to resume gay-marriage rights pending the appeal, described the denial of that fundamental right "un-American."

"It is decidedly unjust and unreasonable to expect California's gay and lesbian couples to put their lives on hold and suffer daily discrimination as second-class citizens while their U.S. District Court victory comes to its final conclusion," said federation founder and board president Chad Griffin.

An attorney for the Proposition 8 supporters, Andrew Pugno, said the judges' ruling on the stay should keep it in force until the case is finally decided.

"It's a victory for Proposition 8 supporters and the initiative process as a whole," Pugno said. "People need to have confidence that their vote will count, at least until the courts make a final decision."

RELATED:

California Supreme Court refuses to speed up ruling on key issue in gay marriage battle

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges appeals court to permit same-sex marriage

Proposition 8 opponents urge federal court to lift order preventing gays from marrying

-- Carol J. Williams

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