Responding to the August 4 ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued an emergency stay of the judge's decision.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker had ruled on Aug. 4 that Prop. 8 – a traditional marriage initiative which passed in November 2008 with the support of seven million Californians – was unconstitutional and mandated that it be null and void as of 5 p.m. on Aug. 18.
On Aug. 17, however, a panel from the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay of Judge Walker's ruling. The court granted a motion filed by the ProtectMarriage.com legal team, which included attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund.
Pro-marriage groups praised the court's decision on Tuesday.
“California voters spoke clearly on Prop 8, and we’re glad to see their votes will remain valid while the legal challenges work their way up through the court,” said Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com. “Invalidating the people’s vote based on just one judge’s opinion would not have been appropriate, and would have shaken the people’s confidence in our elections and the right to vote itself.”
ADF litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell added that it “made no sense to impose a radical change in marriage on the people of California before all appeals on their behalf are heard, so the 9th Circuit’s decision is clearly the right call.”
“Refusing to stay the decision would only have created more legal confusion surrounding any same-sex unions entered while the appeal is pending,” Campbell noted.
“This case has just begun,” Campbell added. “ADF and the rest of the legal team are confident that the right of Americans to protect marriage in their state constitutions will ultimately be upheld.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins weighed in on Tuesday as well, saying, "Today the Ninth Circuit took the first step in doing the right thing for the people of California and the tens of millions across the United States who not only believe in true marriage but also in the rule of law.”
"The next step for the court, if it wants to keep its streak of sobered judgment, is to throw out Judge Walker's entire ruling,” Perkins added. “Ultimately, we are confident that the courts will recognize marriage, as correctly defined, has never violated any constitutional provision.”
As part of its order, the Ninth Circuit issued an expedited appeal schedule for the case, with the opening brief due Sept. 17. Oral arguments will be heard the week of Dec. 6.