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Judge Won't Stay Gay Marriage Decision

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 12, 2010 5:10 PM

Chief Judge of the Federal District Court in Northern California, Vaughn Walker, lead the parties in the Proposition 8 case one more step down their long legal road today. On August 12, Judge Walker refused to put a hold on his decision to overturn the law banning gay marriage in the state of California. In his opinion, the judge found the law denies same sex couples of the right to due process and to equal protection as guaranteed by the Constitution.

In his ruling today, the judge found that the supporters of Prop 8 had not made their case that unless the court stayed its decision, irreparable harm would come to them as proponents of the law. Instead, the judge found that not only did the Prop 8 proponents not show what harm would come to them, they did not show they would be likely to succeed in their appeal, or that the opponents or the public as a whole, would remain unharmed if the judge did issue the stay as requested. For a more complete discussion of the requirements for a stay that Judge Walker discussed in his Order, see FindLaw's Decided blog.

Several major news reports on today's decision came to somewhat different conclusions, all based on the same 11 page Order issued by the court. According to the Washington Post, because the denial of the stay will not go into effect until after the Prop 8 proponents have a chance to appeal it, it is a set-back for same sex couples who hoped the decision would allow them to marry starting today. In the Los Angeles Times report, the win of the opponents to the law is balanced by the fact that the actual marriages are on hold. And in the eyes of the NPR report, the main focus should be that under today's Order, the ban on same sex marriages could be lifted as early as August 18.

Despite the decision today being a classic case of the legal glass half full, half empty, or already drunk by someone else, the practical effects are much the same as after the court's ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger; it is a legal and philosophical victory for those who favor gay marriage in California. However, in terms of buying wedding clothes and throwing rice, that is still on hold for now.

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