Although the federal courts expedited their handling of the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, the issues are far from resolved. And now that the California Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in, the case could be delayed for another year or more.
Enough already. Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to wed while the case works its way through the system.
The state Supreme Court was asked by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether supporters of Proposition 8 have the right — known as "standing" — to continue with their case. It indicated that it would hear arguments late this year, with a ruling likely to follow a few months later. Meanwhile, a stay pending the outcome of the appeal has kept gay weddings from going forward. Now, however, the lawyers challenging Proposition 8 have asked the 9th Circuit to lift the stay and allow the weddings to take place. We agree that it should.
Every day that the case drags on, gay and lesbian couples who would like to marry are being deprived of their civil rights. That's not our wording; the federal trial judge decided that issue, at least for now. The denial of constitutional rights, even temporarily, is a deplorable situation that must meet high legal standards to be allowed to continue. In our view, those conditions have not been met.
First, a stay should be issued only if there is a strong likelihood that the appealing party — in this case, the supporters of Proposition 8 — will prevail in court. Yet there are serious questions about whether they even have the standing to appeal, so the outcome is very uncertain. There are other factors the courts take into account when deciding whether to keep a stay in place. Those filing the appeal must show that they would be irreparably harmed if the stay were lifted; the courts also take into account where the public interest lies. During the trial, the supporters of Proposition 8 were unable to identify any harm that would befall them if same-sex weddings took place.
Certainly it would be messy if California were to resume performing wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, only to have to stop again when another ruling comes down. But there may be no other option. Right now, same-sex couples are being deprived of their constitutional right to marry, and every indication is that unless the stay is lifted, they'll have to keep waiting for more than a year. That is real harm, and there is no valid reason to allow it to continue.