Judge lifts Prop. 8 stay; Calif. gays can marry

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imageU.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker on Thursday afternoon lifted his stay on a ruling striking down Proposition 8, meaning gay couples in California can get married as soon as Aug. 18.

Walker’s action first made the rounds via Twitter, though major news outlets quickly followed with their own reports.

The evidence presented at trial and the position of the representatives of the State of California show that an injunction against enforcement of Proposition 8 is in the public’s interest. Accordingly, the court concludes that the public interest counsels against entry of the stay proponents seek.

None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED.

Walker’s order comes just eight days after he struck down Prop. 8 and ruled that it violated federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. But he quickly stalled his ruling as he considered whether to suspend it during a lengthy appeals process.

California voters passed Prop. 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had marriage. Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a similar amendment in 2004 and the state Supreme Court upheld it in 2006.

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire — plus the District of Columbia allow gay couples to marry, according to Freedom to Marry. Some states offer broad protections short of marriage, including civil unions in New Jersey, and broad domestic partnerships in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California. Smaller packages of protections for same-sex couples exist in Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Colorado and Wisconsin.

imageThe Aug. 4 ruling prompted reactions across the country, including spurring a protest in Atlanta’s gayborhood. About 50 people celebrated the ruling during an impromptu rally at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue a few hours after Walker’s decision was published (top, third photo).

The rally attracted a handful of elected officials, including gay Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan and state Sens. Vincent Fort and Nan Orrock. Fort, a longtime vocal supporter of LGBT issues who just two weeks ago won a tough re-election campaign, handed out bottled water to combat a triple-digit heat index. Also on hand were Kyle Keyser, a gay former candidate for Atlanta mayor, and Joan Garner, a lesbian who on Tuesday won election to the Fulton County Commission as its first openly gay member.

The initial Prop. 8 ruling also prompted Karen Handel and Nathan Deal to lash out at the ruling. The two GOP heavyweights were in the midst of a tight runoff in the Republican primary for governor. Handel complained of “liberal judges subverting the will of the people,” while Deal said the ruling “undermines the credibility of the judicial system and outrages Georgians in both parties.”

Deal narrowly defeated Handel on Tuesday in one of the most anti-gay campaigns gay politicos can remember in Georgia. The rebukes of the Prop. 8 decision prompted gay-friendly GOP state Rep. Mike Jacobs to call on both candidates to put a stop to their gay bashing and focus on more substantive issues.

imageEven former Gov. Roy Barnes, the Democrat running to regain his old job, reacted to the Prop. 8 ruling by saying he believes marriage “is between a man and a woman” and is not in favor of changing state law.

On Saturday, the Prop. 8 ruling was front and center when the National Organization for Marriage held a rally against gay marriage on the steps of the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta. About 30 people attended while a crowd of more than 300 gay and lesbian people watched across Washington Street (bottom photo).

The rally included an anti-gay rant from Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr., who compared same-sex marriage to genocide.

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