California judge renders Prop. 8 ineffective after August 18

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker


A California judge who ruled last week against Proposition 8 – a measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state – denied a motion today by traditional marriage supporters to stay his ruling while the case is on appeal.

Instead of granting the stay, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Thursday that Proposition 8 will be rendered ineffective as of Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

On Aug. 4, Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8, an initiative which passed in November 2008 with the support of seven million Californians, both “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The constitutionality of Prop. 8 was challenged immediately after it was approved in 2008. The Aug. 4 ruling is being appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and may make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The group defending the law is with assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). filed a request for a stay of the Aug. 4 decision with Judge Walker, which would have kept Proposition 8 in effect while its sponsors appealed the case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, Judge Walker ruled today that in “deciding whether a stay is appropriate, the court looks to four factors.” These factors include “whether proponents have made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits,” whether “proponents will be irreparably injured absent a stay,” whether “the stay will substantially injure other interested parties and “whether the stay is in the public interest.”

“Because proponents fail to satisfy any of the factors necessary to warrant a stay,” said Walker, “the court denies a stay except for a limited time solely in order to permit the court of appeals to consider the issue in an orderly manner.”

Reacting to the news on Thursday, ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jim Campbell said that the “ legal team will appeal immediately to the 9th Circuit to stay the trial court’s decision until this case is concluded.”

“This case has just begun, and 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,” Campbell added.  “It makes no sense to impose a radical change in marriage on the people of California before all appeals on their behalf are heard.” 

“If the trial court’s decision is eventually reversed, refusing to stay the decision will senselessly create legal uncertainty surrounding any same-sex unions entered while the appeal is pending,” the ADF attorney said of Judge Walker's decision.

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