Court Lifts Calif. Prop. 8 Ban on Gay Marriage; Plaintiffs Rush to Marry

Two days after the Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of California's Proposition 8 ban did not have the authority to defend the measure in a lower court, an appeals court Friday lifted the stay on gay marriage. Soon thereafter, the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case got married.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday afternoon dissolved a stay it had imposed on Prop. 8, a California voter-approved amendment of 2008 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

While the appeals court was expected to lift the ban only after an official decision from the Supreme Court, Attorney General Kamala Harris urged for prompt action, promising she would ensure that all counties in California were prepared to issue licenses to gay couples, according to The Associated Press.

The Supreme Court had ruled on Wednesday that ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Prop. 8, did not have the legal standing to challenge Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's decision to overturn Prop. 8 in 2010 because they were not affected parties.

Gov. Jerry Brown's office was quick to issue a statement after the appeals court's ruling, 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."

About an hour after the appeals court's ruling, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a gay couple from Berkeley who sued to overturn the ban in the Supreme Court, got married in San Francisco City Hall. Harris presided over their wedding.

"They have waited and fought for this moment….Today their wait is finally over," Harris was quoted as saying. "By virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the state of California, I now declare you spouses for life."

Hours later, on Friday evening, Jeff Katami and Paul Zarrillo, a same-sex couple of Burbank in Los Angeles County and also plaintiffs with Perry and Stier in the Supreme Court case, followed suit at Los Angeles City Hall. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa officiated at their wedding.

The sponsors of Prop. 8 called Friday's ruling an "outrageous act," saying the appeals court rushed forward "without waiting for the Supreme Court's decision to become final and depriving us of our right to ask for reconsideration."

The Supreme Court also ruled on Wednesday to strike down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which will allow married same-sex couples to receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits that are available to married heterosexual couples.

"This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption," ProtectMarriage, a coalition that supports the traditional definition of marriage, said in a statement Friday.

The resumption of gay marriage has been obtained by illegitimate means, the coalition added. "If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed."

ProtectMarriage has 25 days to ask the high court to rehear the case.

"It remains to be seen whether the fight can go on, but either way, it is a disgraceful day for California," the coalition concluded.

As of now, 12 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. The fight for and against same-sex marriage is likely to continue in the courts as well as in public opinion, but states still have the right to decide whether gay marriage should be legal.

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