Too Long to Wait
Published: March 7, 2011
Seven months have passed since Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in San Francisco following a much-publicized trial that turned up no evidence to justify the measure’s denial of equal protection and due process.
Yet the 2008 initiative continues to inflict serious harm on same-sex couples and their families thanks to a court order that prevents gay men and lesbians from marrying in California while the case is being appealed. That stay should be lifted now.
The appeal was argued in December before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It could be many more months before the panel rules. In February, it asked the California Supreme Court to resolve a procedural question regarding the standing of the initiative’s sponsor to bring the appeal. The state’s top court has said it will not even hold a hearing on the issue until September, at the earliest.
In legal papers filed last week, lawyers challenging Proposition 8 took note of the “serious, lasting, and irreparable damage to gay men and lesbians who wish to marry” caused by this extended timetable and called on the federal court to lift its injunction.
The stay should never have been granted in the first place. Applying traditional legal criteria, the extraordinary relief of a stay is only warranted when the applicant makes a strong showing of likely success on the merits and of irreparable injury in the absence of a stay — two arguments that cannot be satisfied here.
As the trial judge’s ruling affirmed, the denial of marriage equality furthers no legitimate governmental aim. And defenders of Proposition 8 can point to no real injury they would suffer if gay men and lesbians are permitted to wed.
Every day same-sex couples are denied their right to marry is another day of injustice for them and their families. Couples who wish to wed knowing that the appellate court could decide to uphold Proposition 8’s ban should be allowed to take that chance.