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From Canyon to Cove: Taking bets on same-sex marriage rights

August 19, 2010|By Cindy Frazier

It's been a roller-coaster ride — and not the fun kind — for same-sex couples in California who want to tie the knot.

First there was the nail-biting trial over Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment approved by a narrow majority of voters that took away the right to marry in the most populous state in the nation. Earlier this year, we watched blow-by-blow as federal Judge Vaughn Walker presided over a lengthy trial as same-sex-marriage opponents and proponents grilled each other testily.

Then there was the wait as Walker crafted his decision — and giddy elation when the judge ruled on Aug. 4 that Prop 8 was an unconstitutional infringement on the civil rights of a beleaguered minority. But not so fast. At the same time, Walker put a stay on the presumed outcome of such a decision — that gay and lesbian couples resume marrying — until the Prop 8 proponents had a chance to file an appeal, which they did.

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Then Walker suddenly announced Aug. 12 he would lift the stay at 5 p.m. Aug. 18, and champagne, wedding cakes, tuxes and bridal dresses began to fly off shelves in cities like San Francisco and West Hollywood.

But again, not so fast. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals slammed the door again on Aug. 16 by issuing a terse decision that the stay would be in place at least until the court heard the full appeal in December.

Now the Monday morning quarterbacking starts, as legal experts weigh in on whether the latest action is a brief detour or could mean another long fight ahead or even the beginning of the end of the road for same-sex-marriage rights.

Here's the score so far.

Some believe the three-judge panel did same sex marriage proponents two favors, one by fast-tracking the appeal and two, by putting marriages on hold. The latter is considered "favorable" because same sex marriage opponents were apparently planning to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court immediately if they had to in order to halt same sex weddings — and that might be too soon, the thinking goes.

Personally, I'd have loved to see this play out in D.C., where same-sex weddings are already legal. Can you imagine it? Same-sex couples could be standing on the steps of the Supreme Court saying their vows as opponents bluster through stomping on their flowers as they rush to file their emergency briefs to halt weddings in California. It could happen.

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