(Photo: Reuters/ Stephen Lam)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday denied an emergency application filed by the sponsors of California's Proposition 8 urging the court to immediately halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses that resumed Friday after an appeals court lifted the ban "prematurely."
Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys filed the application Saturday on behalf of ProtectMarriage, the official sponsors of Prop 8, said the Supreme Court declined to vacate Friday's "premature order" from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the lawsuit concerning California's marriage amendment.
The application argued the 9th Circuit's order prematurely lifted a stay on a district court order that had declared the amendment unconstitutional. Prop 8 is a California voter-approved amendment of 2008 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
Under Supreme Court procedural rules, "final disposition" comes when the Supreme Court issues a "mandate" to the Ninth Circuit, at least 25 days after announcing its opinion in the case, ProtectMarriage said in a statement. "The 25-day waiting period is provided to allow parties such as Prop 8's proponents to petition the Supreme Court for a re-hearing of the case."
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy declined the request "even though court rules require the 9th Circuit to wait for a certified copy of the judgment from the Supreme Court before taking action," Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement. "The high court has not yet issued its certified judgment."
Attorney General Kamala Harris had urged the appeals court to take prompt action, promising she would ensure that all counties in California were prepared to issue licenses to gay couples, according to The Associated Press. And almost immediately after the appeals court dissolved the stay on Prop 8, Gov. Jerry Brown's office issue a statement, saying, "At the direction of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., the California Department of Public Health has notified clerks and registrar/recorders in all 58 California counties that same-sex marriage is now legal in California and that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples immediately."
The two same-sex couples who had petitioned the Supreme Court against the measure rushed to marry on Friday, and numerous other gay couples are following suit in the nation's most populous state.
"Everyone on all sides of the marriage debate should agree that the legal process must be followed," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. "The 9th Circuit made a clear representation upon which all parties should be able to rely – that the stay would remain in place until final disposition by the Supreme Court," he said.
The 9th Circuit acted contrary to its own order without explanation, Nimocks added. "Last year, the 9th Circuit itself reminded all parties to the Proposition 8 case that the 'integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge's word.' We agree."
The application filed by the sponsors of Prop 8 stated that the Ninth Circuit's June 28 order purporting to dissolve the stay of the district court's injunction "is the latest in a long line of judicial irregularities that have unfairly thwarted Petitioners' defense of California's marriage amendment… Failing to correct the appellate court's actions threatens to undermine the public's confidence in its legal system."
"The more than 7 million Californians that voted to enact Proposition 8 deserve nothing short of the full respect and due process our judicial system provides," Nimocks said.
It's not clear if Prop 8 supporters will file their request with another Supreme Court justice.
As of now, 12 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.