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Same-sex marriages start in California (UPDATED)

UPDATE Friday evening: Same-sex couples have begun getting married in California.  State officials issued official statements that same-sex marriage “is now legal in California and that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples immediately.”  The statements are here.


A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court on Friday afternoon lifted a year-old order blocking same-sex marriages in California, apparently clearing the way for county clerks across the state to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The one-sentence order immediately nullified a stay order issued last June by the Circuit Court in the “Proposition 8” case — Hollingsworth v. Perry.

After the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that backers of the ban on gay marriages had no legal right to be pursuing a defense of their measure, which had been struck down by a federal judge in 2010, state officials had said that marriage licenses would be available for such unions as soon as the Ninth Circuit ended the June 5, 2012, stay order. That order had been issued to allow time for the appeal to the Supreme Court.

There was no indication on the Circuit Court docket for the case that anyone had asked that the stay be ended, although state officials had said they planned to make such a request. It thus appeared that the three judges had chosen on their own to act. (UPDATE: On Friday evening, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said on TV that she had, indeed, asked for the stay to be lifted immediately.)

The effect — unless some opponents of same-sex marriages in the state can find some new legal maneuver — appeared to be that now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s August 2010 decision striking down “Proposition 8” will now go into effect formally. State officials have interpreted the scope of that ruling to apply everywhere in California. County clerks across the state have been making preparations to start issuing marriage licenses quickly.

California thus is poised to become the nation’s thirteenth and largest state to authorize same-sex marriages. And, under the Supreme Court’s other ruling on Wednesday, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, newly married and already-married gay and lesbian couples in California will soon be able under federal law to share in marital benefits previously denied to them by that Act.

The two same-sex couples who originally filed the challenge to “Proposition 8” — Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — promptly announced plans to get married.   Perry and Stier were to be married before the end of Friday, on the mayor’s balcony at San Francisco’s City Hall, with state Attorney General Kamala Harris officiating.   Katami and Zarrillo are to be married in Los Angeles.  (UPDATE: The San Francisco marriage of Perry and Stier has occurred, and Katami and Zarrillo were married later on Friday evening by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at City Hall in Los Angeles.)

The two couples won their case in a trial before Judge Walker, in the highest-profile gay rights case in years, and perhaps ever.  They also prevailed in the Ninth Circuit Court.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Same-sex marriages start in California (UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Jun. 28, 2013, 6:37 PM),