SAN FRANCISCO — Same-sex weddings are on hold indefinitely in California after a federal appeals court blocked them yesterday while it considers the constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban.
The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, supercedes a lower court judge’s order that would have allowed county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples tomorrow.
Chief US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker decided last week to allow gay marriages to go forward after ruling that the ban, known as Proposition 8, violated equal protection and due process rights of gays and lesbians guaranteed under the US Constitution. The Proposition 8 legal team quickly appealed Walker’s ruling in a case that many believe will end up before the Supreme Court.
In urging the appeals court to halt resumption of same-sex unions, sponsors of the ban said California voters had sound reasons and were not motivated by antigay bias when they outlawed the unions in 2008.
In addition, the state’s interest in promoting responsible procreation through heterosexual marriages would be harmed if gay marriages were permitted while the appeals court reviews a previous ruling that overturned Proposition 8, lawyers contended in legal filings.
“The record leaves no doubt, none at all, that California, 44 other states, and the vast majority of countries throughout the world continue to draw the line at marriage because it continues to serve a vital societal interest that is equally ubiquitous: to channel potentially procreative sexual relationships into enduring, stable unions for the sake of responsibly producing and raising the next generation,’’ the lawyers wrote.
Walker had said that county clerks must stop enforcing the ban tomorrow, which would have cleared the way for gay couples to obtain marriage licenses unless the appeals court decided otherwise.
Lawyers for the couples who successfully sued to strike down Proposition 8 have been joined by state Attorney General Jerry Brown in urging the Ninth Circuit Court to allow gay marriages to resume without delay.
They argued that same-sex couples should not be denied their constitutional rights while the appeal is pursued and that government agencies would suffer no harm by being required to sanction same-sex marriages.
The Proposition 8 legal team said Walker had erred in concluding there was no evidence that allowing same-sex unions would undermine heterosexual marriages.