While the panel’s ruling is a good step, we still have a long way to go. Of course, the ruling only applies to California. Plus, the decision has been stayed (at least) until the court decides whether or not to grant a request by ProtectMarriage, the losing party, to rehear the case en banc (before the full court). The court is expected to decide soon whether or not a full-court review should be granted.
Unfortunately, enforcement of the decision lifting the ban on same-gender marriage will likely be delayed regardless of how the court decides this matter. If the court grants a full-court review, the decision will be stayed until the proceeding is completed, which could take one to two years. And if it denies a full-court review, as most observers expect it to, ProtectMarriage will probably file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which would probably also result in a stay to the ruling. Thus, the court’s ruling invalidating Proposition 8 will not take effect until either the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, or hears it and upholds the panel’s ruling. Worse, it’s far from certain that the Supreme Court would uphold a decision legalizing same-gender marriage, given its current composition.
Despite the possibility that the panel’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional could be overturned by the Supreme Court, supporters of same-gender marriage have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. We are winning legal fights and making gains across the country. On February 13th, just five days after the court’s ruling on Proposition 8, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed a same-gender marriage bill into law, which will take effect on June 7th, unless same-gender marriage opponents collect enough signatures to get a referendum banning it on the November ballot. As expected, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have legalized same-gender marriage. But this battle isn’t over as lawmakers in New Jersey who backed the bill say they are trying to get more of their colleagues to support it so that they can override Governor Christie’s veto. Also last month, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill legalizing same-gender marriage in his state…and in New Hampshire, the House killed a bill that would have repealed the state’s 2010 law granting same-gender couples the right to legally marry.
The takeaway from all this, including the recent Proposition 8 decision, is that if the trend continues, marriage equality may eventually be widely recognized in our nation, though we will likely have to wait a few years longer than we’d like.