Judge overturns Prop 8; decision stayed pending appeals

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 4 2010 2:00 p.m. MDT

A group of friends get their photo taken as they stop in front of Temple Square during a march Wednesday August 4, 2010 in Salt Lake City to celebrate the overturn of Proposition 8 in California.

Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Although a federal judge on Wednesday overturned a ban on same-sex marriage in California, it's apt to be at least a couple of years before anything really changes as the case continues to wind its way through the appeals process.

The ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker striking down Proposition 8's amendment to the California Constitution banning same-sex marriage was expected, but "it's not clear what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court might decide," said Clifford Rosky, a University of Utah law professor and board member for Equality Utah.

Immediately after he issued the ruling that found the voter-prompted ban unconstitutional, Walker stayed his decision until at least Friday. He said he will decide then whether to issue a longer stay.

Prior to the judge's ruling, both sides had vowed that if they lost they would appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the last step before the U.S. Supreme Court. Experts said it's likely the 9th Circuit or Walker will extend the stay through the appeal, which would continue the ban on same-sex marriage for its duration.

Reaction to Walker's ruling was swift and reflected how divided America is on same-sex marriage.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement saying it "regrets today's decision."

"California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman," spokesman Michael Purdy said. "We agree. Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.

"We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution — marriage.

"There is no doubt that today's ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

The LDS Church did not make a direct contribution to ProtectMarriage.com, the Prop. 8 campaign. But it did send a letter to each LDS congregation in California asking Mormons to give time and money to support it. A church spokesman told media that the church estimated the value of its non-monetary, in-kind contributions at $189,900 — less than 1 percent of the total funds donated to the "Yes on 8" campaign, which raised $40 million.

In a statement issued from Washington, D.C., Cardinal Francis George of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also criticized the ruling.

"Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society," he said. "The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good. It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined."

Jubilation reigned in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, as several hundred opponents of Proposition 8 rallied at the Utah Capitol Wednesday night to celebrate the ruling. Some carried American flags, and others wrapped themselves in rainbow-colored Pride flags.

"It's a nicer flag than usual," said Jim Grady, pointing to the Stars and Stripes. "It's about time it's all of our flag again."

Tanya Lookadoo was there with her toddler because her older son, Justin Peterson, is gay. "I don't think people get it unless they have a child who is gay," she said. "They deserve a life like every other human being on this planet."

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