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Prop. 8: New weddings unlikely right away if measure struck down

February 7, 2012 |  9:31 am

2012-02-07 gay marriage art

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is expected to release its decision at 10 a.m. Tuesday on whether the California voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

Here are some answers to common questions:

What’s being decided Tuesday?

A panel of three judges, who serve on the regional federal appeals court, will decide whether Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban passed by voters in 2008, violates guarantees in the U.S. Constitution that all people be equally protected under the law and due process, which means people should be protected against laws that are unfair, arbitrary or unreasonable to individuals.


How is this different from previous rulings?

A lower federal court ruled against Proposition 8 in 2010. Tuesday's decision will be handed down by an appeals court -– and the case is likely to make its way to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

How is the court expected to rule?

During oral arguments more than a year ago, the panel appeared to be leaning toward ruling against Proposition 8 but expressed concern about procedural matters.

Tell me more about the backgrounds of the three judges on the appeals court panel.

The judges on the Proposition 8 panel are Stephen Reinhardt, an appointee of President Carter; Michael Daly Hawkins, an appointee of President Clinton; and N. Randy Smith, appointed by President George W. Bush.

If the appeals court also strikes down Proposition 8, will same sex couples be allowed to marry immediately?

It’s possible the judges could issue a stay to put their ruling on hold pending appeals, which would prohibit couples from marrying until a final decision. If the judges lift the stay, backers of Proposition 8 could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate it.

Will other states in the 9th Circuit – Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii – be bound by Tuesday’s decision?

The court's decision would have no immediate effect on other states within the 9th Circuit, lawyers said Monday. Even if Proposition 8 is struck down and the stay lifted, marriage bans in other states would probably continue until challenged or until state officials refused to recognize them, attorneys said.

What else will the court decide?

The panel has also been asked to decide whether the original federal court ruling in 2010, issued by Judge Vaughn R. Walker, should be overturned on the grounds that he failed to disclose he was in a long-term same-sex relationship.

How quickly will the case be appealed by the losing party?  

The losing party can appeal the ruling to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit, which would delay U.S. Supreme Court review for many months or longer, or go directly to the high court. The sponsors of Proposition 8, ProtectMarriage, have said they were eager to get to the high court as soon as possible.


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-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco and Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Demonstrators gather outside a federal courthouse in San Francisco last year. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times