A crushing blow was felt today by same-sex marriage supporters when a Federal Appeals Court put same-sex marriages on hold indefinitely this afternoon. The decision was reached by three judges who make up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel. This decision overrides Judge Vaughn Walker’s order that would have allowed the marriages to start on Wednesday. The decision essentially denies gay men and women access to their legal right to marry. It could be a year or longer before the ban is lifted.
Lawyers representing the two gay couple’s that originally challenged the ban, plan on taking the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In an emotional fight that has pitted religious groups against the constitution rights of other Americans, the battle promises to be long and hard for both sides. As it stands now, same sex couples wanting to legally marry will have to wait until the end of the year before any decision is made and even then, the legal fight could extend through the following year.
The three judge panel took arguments by both sides into consideration when making their decision. In a two page order that granted the stay, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court stated it would expedite the process. However, in “legal time” expedite could mean months or even years. The case will not be heard until December 6th. A separate 3 judge panel will be assigned to hear the case and make a decision on the constitutional ethics of this landmark case.
Last week, Judge Vaughn Walker, who had overturned the same-sex marriage law on the basis of unconstitutionality, lifted the ban which would have allowed gay couples to marry this week. However, the legal team representing a number of religious groups that support the ban on gay marriage filed an appeal against Walker’s decision. Because the issue is so volatile and there is no middle ground, legal analysts feel the case will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court before it can eventually be decided. Proposition 8 supporters feel that the institution of marriage will be desecrated should homosexuals be allowed to legally marry.
Supporters of the same-sex ban on marriage say that they are only trying to protect the traditional understanding of marriage. They say they are also trying to encourage responsible childbearing. In a world filled with headlines about same-sex molestation cases brought against men of religion and the number of unwanted children that are a result of heterosexual couples too young to be parents, it is difficult to defend marriage on the grounds of religious tradition. Then there’s the destruction of constitutional rights. The constitution was designed to protect all, not a select few. Both sides feel justification in their actions and it will be left to the courts to decide who is right.
Many were surprised by the stay being put in place on the ban. However, the potential landslide of lawsuits that would be filed, should Walker’s decision be overturned, seemed to be of greatest concern to the courts. The real question facing the courts is this: Since the law has been found to be a violation of constitutional rights, isn’t allowing the ban to stay in place a breach of constitutional rights?
The bottom line; this is a constitutional issue and supporters of Proposition 8 appear to be altering constitutional rights rather than amending them. Historically, using other countries as an example, when constitutions are changed to suit the needs of a select few, it doesn’t stop after one change. It starts with one group of people and continues until only those who initiated the changes are left. This is the kind of thinking that put Hitler in power. The constitution was designed to protect the rights of everyone. The United States was founded as place for the persecuted to find a safe haven from tyranny. Now its up to the courts to decide who is right and who is wrong.