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California can begin gay marriages again, judge says

August 4, 2010 |  2:12 pm

Judge Vaughn R. Walker's ruling throwing out California's ban on same sex marriage also says that gay marriage can again proceed.

"California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result. California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings," he wrote.

It's unclear, however, whether his ruling will be stayed until a higher court can hear the matter, which is expected.

[Updated at 3:30 p.m.:The federal judge who on Wednesday afternoon declared California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional has temporarily stayed his order until Friday, giving Prop. 8 backers time to file appeals and seek a long-term stay. The decision would appear to delay any resumption of gay marriage in the state. Officials in L.A. County and West Hollywood said they were studying the ruling before deciding whether to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses again. Prop. 8 backers have vowed to appeal the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.]

Walker also said Proposition 8 treated straight couples as "superior" to gay ones.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote. "Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

Vaughn added: "Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal-protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8."

The judge also ruled that the ban on gay marriages should be lifted.

"Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8."

-- Rong-Gong Lin II