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Court Halts California Gay Marriage

Romain Raynaldy

LOS ANGELES – Gay couples in California scrapped wedding
plans Tuesday after a court halted same-sex unions until the completion
of an appeals process expected to end up in the US Supreme Court.

A week after a landmark decision overturned a ban on gay marriage,
the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion for a stay of the
order, effectively reinstating the ban.

Further appeal proceedings are now scheduled to take place the week of December 6 in San Francisco.

The ruling halted an anticipated rush of gay marriages after Judge
Vaughn Walker last week ruled same-sex weddings could begin again on
August 18, allowing a week for the court of appeals to consider the

Opponents of gay marriage argued in their appeal that same-sex
unions are prohibited most places in the United States and abroad
because marriage is intended to serve a societal interest.

"California, 44 other states, and the vast majority of countries
throughout the world continue to draw the line at marriage because it
continues to serve a vital societal interest," the appeal said.

The challenge argued that the purpose of marriage is for members of
the opposite sex "to channel potentially procreative sexual
relationships into enduring, stable unions for the sake of responsibly
producing and raising the next generation."

Opponents of gay marriage in California also argue that the state's
voters made their intentions known by supporting the 2008 ballot
initiative known as Proposition 8 that imposed the ban on same-sex

"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 courts," Andy Pugno, an author of the ballot initiative,
said in a statement.

But the ruling was a bitter blow for gay couples and their supporters.

"We are extremely disappointed that loving same-sex couples will
have to wait to marry, and that we are once again being denied our
fundamental rights," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff
Kors in a statement.

"However, we are optimistic for a favorable ruling, and we're
hopeful that same-sex couples will be able to marry as soon as

Some 18,000 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot between May and
November 2008 when gay marriage was briefly allowed by the state of

Currently only the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the US capital Washington, recognize
gay marriage.

Both California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney
General Jerry Brown filed motions last Friday demanding same-sex
marriages be allowed after Walker ruled that the California referendum
that barred same-sex marriage was discriminatory and therefore violated
the US Constitution.

Schwarzenegger praised Walker's decision, saying it would "provide all Californians the liberties I believe everyone deserves."

But the ruling drew howls of condemnation from conservative
opponents of same-sex marriage, who alleged that Walker -- who is gay --
had allowed his ruling to be influenced by his own sexual orientation.

Opponents of same-sex unions also argued it was inappropriate to
reinstate marriage rights until the appeals process had run its course.

"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, "said Jim
Campbell, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a socially
conservative grouping.

Proposition 8 passed with a 52 percent majority in November 2008,
only six months after California's Supreme Court overturned a previous
ban on same-sex weddings, sending gays and lesbians flocking to marry.

Legal experts believe the case is almost certain appeals hearings in lower
courts have run their course.

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