By Dennis Romero and Patrick Range McDonald, with reporting by Steve La from Norwalk
Updated with reporting from the county clerk's office. First posted at 12:40 p.m.
U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker on Thursday morning lifted a self-imposed stay in his decision that overturned Prop. 8, the California initiative that bans same-sex marriage. The highly anticipated move (PDF) meant that same-sex couples who wanted to could get married starting Wednesday.
Officials from the city and county of Los Angeles as well as those of West Hollywood were on stand-by Thursday morning, planning to perform and sanction same-sex marriages immediately. They'll have to wait until next week, according to the order.
“… Proposition 8 harms the people of California … Proponents motion for a stay is denied,” Walker wrote. ” … That judgment shall be STAYED August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.”
An appeal was underway in the U.S. Ninth Circuit court of appeals, CNN reported.
“I applaud the decision by Judge Walker to lift the stay in this case and allow same-sex marriages to resume,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in an early afternoon statement.
A few couples lined up at the county clerk's office in Norwalk, where spokeswoman Monica Flores said marriage licenses would be issues starting at 5 p.m. on Aug 18, with the office staying open late that day.
“It's a bitter sweet victory,” said 25 year-old Amanda Pentacost, who had hoped to marry her partner Thursday. “It's hard to wait six days not knowing what's going to happen.”
“We're disappointed that we can't do it today but glad of the possibility,” said Pam Pudewa, 45, of Long Beach, who sat outside the office with her partner Judith Loniak, 52. “We have to keep hoping.”
Outside Los Angeles Superior Court in Beverly Hills, where at least eight same-sex couples had lined up in hopes of getting a marriage license Thursday, there was also disappointment.
“More of the same,” said wedding hopeful Tom Rastrelli. Partner Bruce Mayhall said, “It sounds like there will be no window [to get a marriage license], which is infuriating.”
In West Hollywood, at an early afternoon press conference at Kings Road Park, Prop. 8 lawsuit plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo was still confident that he would someday soon marry his longtime partner, Paul Katami. “We believe our equal rights will be vindicated,” Zarrillo said.
Katami, who is also a plaintiff, said the couple has been on an “emotional high” since last week. He said that other gay and lesbian couples, who wanted to get married today, should not be discouraged about how events have unfolded. “It's a small, little hiccup, but (legal marriage for gays) is going to happen.”
Villaraigosa's office Thursday morning issued a statement that reads, in part, that the mayor was prepared to “perform the first same-sex marriage ceremony in the City of Los Angeles since the invalidation of Proposition 8, the November 2008 California ballot measure that was ruled unconstitutional last week by a federal judge.”
Couples that want to be wed in L.A.'s or West Hollywood's ceremonies had to first go to their local courthouses to get their marriage licenses. Civil ceremonies, now apparently on hold, were planned at L.A. City Hall and at Kings Road Park in West Hollywood.
West Hollywood city Councilman John Duran told L.A. Weekly he hoped to quickly approve marriages in West Hollywood while he could.
“We may only have an hour, a day, a few days,” Duran said. “Who knows?”
At Superior Court in Beverly Hills Thursday morning, same-sex couples waited in line as straight couples walked past them and got their licenses.
“They got married, and they're finished,” said marriage hopeful Tim Bone, a stay-at-home dad from nearby Park La Brea. “They don't have to wait like us.”
It was a firsthand experience of inequality that disturbed the couple, the kind of inequality that young gays and lesbians talked about in a news story in the current issue of L.A. Weekly, titled “Young Gay Dreams of Matrimony.”
Bone waited to marry partner Floyd Weldon, a principal at the Los Angeles Unified School District. The couple has 4-year-old twins. Dressed in all white, the middle-aged pair was the second couple in line at the courthouse. After receiving their marriage license they planned to head to Los Angeles City Hall where they were slated to be married, along with two or three other select couples, by Villaraigosa.
“In my relationship with Tim, my mother could never get past saying he is my friend,” said Weldon. “It's really complex with the emotions going on.”
In 2008 the pair had been planning a ceremony for February of 2009, but after Prop. 8 passed they were forced to put those plans on hold.
“We missed the window last time,” Bone said. “We never thought Prop. 8 would pass … We have two kids and we have a life together … At the end of the day, it isn't about politics. It's about two people who love each other.”
Still, even after they get married, the pair was worried about the future — about whether the blockage of Prop. 8 would stand. Both said, however, they would be ready to fight a legal battle to preserve their union.
“I feel it's our responsibility,” Weldon said. “I think the only way that you get things and certain rights is by putting yourself out there. A lot of people have done it for us, and now it's our turn.”
California voters passed the controversial proposition, which received a huge infusion of cash and lobbying manpower from the Mormon church, in November 2008.
Following the reversal of the proposition earlier this month, Judge Walker stayed his own ruling pending appeal. However, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown requested that he lift the stay so that same-sex couples who wanted to could get married, the justice decided to lift his stay Thursday morning.
On Aug. 4 Walker overturned Prop. 8, writing, in part, that “to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”