The federal judge who rejected California's voter-approved marriage definition says he is ready to rule on whether gay marriages should resume immediately in the state or await an appeals court's input.
Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said he would issue his decision Thursday by noon on requests to impose a stay that would keep California's Proposition 8 in effect while its sponsors appeal his recent decision.
Prop. 8, which California voters passed in 2008, effectively defined marriage in the state's constitution as the union of one man and one woman. The amendment was passed by 52 percent of California voters.
Last week, Walker struck down Prop. 8 as an unconstitutional violation of both the equal protection and due process rights of homosexual citizens.
The amendment, he concluded, "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," Walker added.
Supporters of Prop. 8, in response, have criticized the judge for assuming that the majority who voted for the amendment did so based on religious opposition to homosexuality, which he rejected as an illegitimate state interest.
They've also rebuked him for nullifying the will of California voters as expressed through the electoral process.
"It's not radical for more than 7 million Californians to protect marriage as they've always known it," remarked Brian Raum, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, which has appealed Walker's ruling.
"What would be radical would be to allow a handful of activists to gut the core of the American democratic system and, in addition, force the entire country to accept a system that intentionally denies children the mom and the dad they deserve," he added.
Notably, funding for the lawsuit against Prop. 8 has reportedly come from a group of liberal Hollywood activists led by director Rob Reiner, who retained two of the nation's most influential lawyers to argue the case – former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and trial lawyer David Boies.
Law experts say marriage laws in 45 states and the federal Defense of Marriage Act may ultimately be nullified if California's Prop. 8 is overturned.
Those from both sides of the marriage debate have been following the case closely as it could lead to a precedent for whether gay marriage becomes legal nationwide and – as traditional marriage advocates say – whether the nation's democratic principles will be upheld.
Walker's ruling on the stay is expected between 9 a.m. and noon on Thursday.