Gay Marriage in California: What Happens Next?
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has kicked California's ban on gay marriage back to a court that has already overturned it, what's next for same-sex couples who want to marry in the Golden State?
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals must first confirm its "stay of the injunction." In other words, the U.S. court must reaffirm that Prop. 8 is bunk. After that, marry on:
It appears that this could happen after 25 days, when the Supreme Court decision officially goes into effect and the circuit court has a chance to make its move.
California Gov. Jerry Brown today wasted no time, ordering the state to inform county clerks that they now have to perform same-sex marriages.
According to his office:
... The Governor has directed the California Department of Public Health to advise county officials today that the district court's injunction against Proposition 8 applies statewide and that all county clerks and county registrar/recorders must comply with it. However, same-sex Californians will not be able to marry until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay of the injunction, which has been in place throughout the appeals process, is lifted.
... The Department will issue another letter to county officials as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirms the stay is lifted.
Sounds like these unions could start in late July.
In the meantime, Brown was pleased with the high court's decision:
After years of struggle, the U.S. Supreme Court today has made same-sex marriage a reality in California.
[Added at 9:45 a.m.]: A letter to county clerks from Tony Agurto, a state registrar assistant deputy director, says "it could take a month or more" for the circuit court action to happen:
County clerks and recorders should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until this [circuit court] order is issued.
Read the letter here.
[Update at 3:50 p.m.]: California Attorney General Kamala Harris today said she wants the marriages to start sooner than later.
The Ninth Circuit court's previous decision came with a "stay" in anticipation of a appeals, meaning that while that court sided with gay rights advocates, it was putting the effect of its decision on hold until the case worked its way to the top of the legal system.
Harris is asking the Ninth Circuit not to wait for the Supreme Court's decision to take effect in 25 days:
I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift this stay immediately, because gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough for their full civil rights.
Harris notes that the Supreme Court's move came on a 5-4 vote.
[Added at 4:10 p.m.]: David Codell, legal director at UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, says the Ninth Circuit could lift its stay today if it so desired.
He didn't want to guess if the circuit would do so or wait the 25 days for the Supreme Court's decision to be final, but Codell said there would be no harm done if the circuit court jumped the gun. There would be no one to complain -- likely not the Supreme Court, the state of California, which supports the high court decision, or Prop. 8 proponents, whom the Supreme Court ruled have to standing int he case.
Codell notes that the Ninth Circuit upheld the stay on March 23, 2011 with the words that it was doing so "at this time," meaning it was a temporary move made at the full discretion of the court.
See also: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA.