U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Thursday he would lift the stay and allow same-sex marriages to proceed, but not until Aug. 18. Such marriages would be permitted after that unless an appeals court, possibly the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, issues a stay beyond the date.
Walker warned the amendment's sponsors may not have standing, or status, to make the appeal because they were not affected by the stay.
"As it appears at least doubtful that proponents will be able to proceed with their appeal without a state defendant, it remains unclear whether the court of appeals will be able to reach the merits of proponents' appeal," Walker wrote. "In light of those concerns, proponents may have little choice but to attempt to convince either the governor or the attorney general to file an appeal to ensure jurisdiction."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Jerry Brown had urged the judge to immediately lift the stay, allowing gay and lesbian marriages to go on during the legal process, and a spokesman for the governor indicated Thursday Schwarzenegger will not appeal the ruling, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"The governor supports the judge's ruling," spokesman Aaron McLear said.
If higher courts concur with Walker on the standing issue, they would not decide the issue on its merits, the newspaper said. However, the case could still get further hearings on procedural issues, during which time the ruling overturning Proposition 8 would stand in California.
In issuing a preliminary injunction Aug. 4 against the ban, a state constitutional amendment called Proposition 8, the judge said it "both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."
The Times said the sponsors had warned they would go to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay if Walker allowed same-sex marriages to continue.
California voters approved the ban in November 2008 by a 52.3 percent majority six months after the California Supreme Court ruled laws against same-sex marriage violated the state Constitution. The state court later upheld Prop 8 as a valid amendment to the state Constitution.