A federal judge in San Francisco today declined to block gay and lesbian weddings as a court battle over California's ban on same-sex marriage moves forward, but put the marriages on hold by extending a temporary stay until Aug. 18.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker turned down a request by sponsors of Proposition 8 for a long-term stay while they appeal a ruling in which he struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage last week. But Walker agreed to extend a temporary stay of his ruling for a week to enable the Proposition 8 supporters to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a long-term stay.
This morning, dozens of same-sex couples lined up outside the county clerk's office at City Hall, waiting to demand marriage licenses if the stay were lifted immediately. A separate group that had gathered on the steps outside cheered as they received unofficial word at about 12:20 p.m. that Walker had decided against a long-term stay.
One man carrying a rainbow flag crouched down and began to cry. Same-sex couples began arriving at City Hall early this morning in anticipation of Walker's decision. Midge Detro and Sandy Simmons of Hollister arrived in San Francisco at 6:50 a.m., after a two-hour trip.
"We set the alarm for 3 a.m. and only got three hours of sleep," Detro said.
Simmons said that when word broke late Wednesday about today's decision, "we got about 20 e-mails last night almost simultaneously."
Another couple from the Fairfield area, Teresa Rowe and Kristin Orbin, said this morning they were "excited and cautiously optimistic" about Walker's decision.
"If not today, then soon," Rowe said.
The Proposition 8 sponsors and their campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com, had wanted Walker's ruling to be suspended throughout the appeal process, which could take months and which could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. They have argued in court filings that they believe they are likely to win their appeal and that a temporary reinstatement of same-sex marriage could cause disruption.
But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and two same-sex couples who challenged the initiative said in briefs filed Friday that they expect Walker's ruling to survive the appeal and that allowing same-sex marriages to resume would be in the public interest.
Schwarzenegger said in his filing that permitting gay and lesbian marriages during the appeal process would not create administrative difficulties for the state. Walker ruled last week that Proposition 8, enacted by a 52 percent majority of voters in 2008, violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal treatment.