Gay Marriage Ruling Draws Sober Response in San Francisco
A crowd at San Francisco City Hall applauded the news Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, but the reaction was shaded by the knowledge that the high court had sidestepped the larger question of whether banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.
The justices voted 5-4 to let stand a trial court’s August 2010 ruling that overturned the state’s voter-approved gay marriage ban, holding that the coalition of religious conservative groups that qualified Proposition 8 for the ballot did not have authority to defend it after state officials refused to do so.
The practical effect of the Supreme Court ruling, however, is likely to be more legal wrangling before the state can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time since Proposition 8 passed in November 2008.
"While it is unfortunate that the court’s ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court’s order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable," said Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the ban’s supporters.
The uncertainty has made it impossible for anyone to say when gay marriage might resume in California, where such unions had been legal for 4 1/2 months and an estimated 18,000 couples tied the knot before passage of Prop 8.
Gay marriage advocates said marriages could resume as soon as the midlevel appeals court that also invalidated Prop 8 lifts a hold it put on the lower court order while the litigation made its way to the Supreme Court. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said his group would be pushing for that to happen within days instead of weeks.
"The headline here is marriage is starting very, very soon in the great state of California, and those couples should be planning those weddings tonight," Griffin said.