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Same-sex marriage may be legal next week

Same-sex marriage may be legal next week

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A federal district court judge on Thursday confirmed his earlier order declaring California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

By lifting the stay of his order, the judge declared that the governor, attorney general and county clerks “shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8” effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday. But the case could be appealed before then. 

Proposition 8, approved by voters in November 2008, defines marriage as between one man and one woman. 

“Unless the 9th Circuit Appeals Court or another court overturns Judge Walker’s judgment, our office will begin issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for same gender couples at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19,” said John Tuteur, Napa County clerk and commissioner of civil marriages.

Deb Stallings, director of the Napa Valley Unity League, said she is optimistic that Thursday’s ruling will stand.

“It’s taken a little time to really decipher exactly what the decision means, but if I allow myself to sit here just a minute and be optimistic, it comes to a very happy conclusion,” Stallings said. “We’re all just waiting, holding hands and holding our breath. It’s really exciting to think that this could be it.” 

Chris Edwards, a board member of the Napa Valley Unity League and a member of the Equality Coalition in Napa, said he hopes Thursday’s  ruling could mean an October wedding for him and his partner of 12 years.

“My partner, Scott, and I were planning a renewal of our partnership some time in October, as my parents are coming up from South Carolina,” Edwards said.

“We have never done the real domestic partnership thing, because we’ve always said we were holding out until there was some teeth to it, and it could be recognized as a true marriage,” Edwards added. “Our hope was that this ruling would happen and we would be able to have a real marriage with our family present.”

Tuteur said he and county clerks throughout California have been using gender neutral licenses and marriage ceremonies since May 2008 when the California Supreme Court allowed same gender couples to marry. Those forms were not changed when same gender marriages were banned by the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008. 

Charles J. Cooper, the lead counsel defending the ban, said Thursday that he intends to ask the 9th Circuit to block gay marriages from going forward.

“The decision whether to redefine the institution of marriage is for the people themselves to make, not a single district court judge, especially without appellate scrutiny,” Cooper said.

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.

“It’s a really sad day for Californians, for families, for our future and for voters that a federal judge has trampled on the civil rights of voters,” said Luke Otterstad, 24, of Sacramento, who stood among dozens of gay marriage supporters outside San Francisco’s City Hall to protest the judge’s ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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