A win for gay marriage and California tourism


Tourism officials in California hope that gays from around the country will opt to get married in sunny California, infusing money into the fiscally-challenged state.

A federal judge put gay marriages on hold for at least another six days in California, disappointing dozens of gay couples who lined up outside City Hall hoping to tie the knot Thursday.

Judge Vaughn Walker gave opponents of same-sex weddings until August 18 at 5:00 pm to get a ruling from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on whether gay marriage should resume. Gay marriages could happen at that point or be put off indefinitely depending on how the court rules.

Walker struck down the state’s voter-approved gay marriage ban last week in a case many believe is destined for the Supreme Court.

But he moved to suspend gay weddings until he could consider arguments from both sides on whether the marriages should be allowed during an appeal of his ruling. He now says gay marriage should resume, but he gave conservatives the extra time to get the appeals court to weigh in.

California voters passed Proposition 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 tied the knot.

Lawyers for gay couples, California Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed legal motions Friday asking that same-sex marriages be allowed to resume immediately.

Walker said on Thursday that ban proponents didn’t convince him that anyone would be harmed by allowing same-sex marriages to resume.

“The evidence at trial showed, however, that Proposition 8 harms the state of California,” Walker said.

Walker also turned aside arguments that marriages performed now could be thrown into legal chaos if Proposition 8 is later upheld by an appeals court.

Walker said such weddings would appear to be legal even if the ban is later reinstated. He pointed to the 18,000 same-sex couples who married legally in the five months that gay marriage was legal in California as proof.

Walker also said that no one can claim harm by allowing same-sex weddings to go forward, but banning them harms gays.

In 2008, California voters voted for Proposition 8, which stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” In that same election, California voted overwhelmingly to elect Barack Obama president. Obama was opposed to Prop 8.

Same-sex couples were allowed to marry in California in June 2008 when a California Supreme Court decision that allowed for same-sex weddings went into effect. But gay marriages ended less than six months later, in the November election, when voters approved Proposition 8.

Tourism officials in California embraced the marriages as a way to drum up more gay tourism.

Resorts in Palm Springs saw a boost in business as gay couples hosted weddings in that resort city.

The federal suit was formally brought on behalf of two gay couples, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo, who are from Burbank.

The California case was the first federal trial based on a Constitutional challenge to a state’s right to ban gay marriage.

Other challenges have focused on the California State Constitution, not the US Constitution.

National support for gay rights has risen to a record high, with more than 52 percent of Americans agreeing that gays and lesbians should have the constitutional right to marry.

A CNN poll posted Wednesday showed 46 percent of 496 people surveyed do not support marriage equality. The margin of sampling error is at plus or minus three percentage points for the total sample and plus or minus three points for registered voters.

Political stat site FiveThirtyEight.com charted the growing public acceptance of marriage equality. The earliest charts show a 1988 survey in which more than 70 percent of respondents opposed same-sex marriage rights.