In an unexplained ruling on Monday a California court ordered a permanent stay on same-sex marriages in the state pending the conclusion of the appeals process in the Proposition 8 case.
The decision, which follows last week's overturn of California's ban on gay marriages by District Judge Vaughn Walker, is a major disappointment for thousands of same-sex couples who were hoping to wed on Wednesday at the end of Walker's temporary stay on the ruling.
But while marriages remain on hold, same-sex rights advocates are pleased that the court has granted an expedited appeals process, with initial briefs due on September 17.
"We are very gratified that the Ninth Circuit has recognized the importance and pressing nature of this case and the need to resolve it as quickly as possible by issuing this extremely expedited briefing schedule," said Ted Olson, prosecuting attorney in the case. "As Chief Judge Walker found, Proposition 8 harms gay and lesbian citizens each day it remains on the books. We look forward to moving to the next stage of this case."
The court specifically asked Proposition 8's defenders to include a statement of why their appeal should not be dismissed for lack of proper standing – a task some believe will be difficult as both California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, the original defendants in the case, are in support of same-sex marriages.
"Every additional day that couples must wait to marry again in California is painful, but despite the terrible disappointment for the many couples whose right to marry has been delayed yet again, today's ruling includes another significant victory for our side. The court did the right thing by putting the case on a fast track and specifically ordering that Prop 8 proponents show why they have a legal right to appeal," said Kate Kendell, director of the National Council for Lesbian Rights.
"This ruling brings us one step closer to ending the nightmare of Prop 8, and restoring full equality for all Californians," she added.
Oral arguments for the case are scheduled to begin on the week of December 6.