Editor's note: Shortly after a federal appeals court ruled against California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin answered questions about the implications of ruling and his reaction to it.
WHAT, IN A NUTSHELL, DID THE COURT DECIDE?
Proposition 8, the initiative passed by voters in 2008, is unconstitutional, a violation of the rights of gay and lesbian people who want to get married.
CAN SAME-SEX COUPLES IN CALIFORNIA GET MARRIED NOW?
No - not yet. The 9th Circuit panel left a stay in place that will continue as long as the defendants in the case continue their appeal. Since the defendants have indicated they will continue their appeals, it is likely to be months before same-sex marriages may resume.
ARE YOU SURPRISED BY TODAY'S RULING?
Not really. The background of the two judges in the majority, and the questions they asked in oral argument, suggested they were leaning this way. The rationale is somewhat surprising. Instead of ruling that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in all circumstances, the court issued a narrower ruling. The judges said that the peculiar circumstances in California – a right to same-sex marriage withdrawn by a vote of the public – was unconstitutional.
Editor's note: California voters approved Proposition 8 in 2008, superseding a ruling by the California's Supreme Court, which had allowed same-sex marriages in California before that.
WILL THE CASE GO TO THE U.S. SUPREME COURT?
I think the narrow approach in today's decision makes the case less likely to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The court applies general principles that apply across the United States. Because this case only deals with the unique circumstances in California, I think the Supreme Court is less likely to review it.
So the good news for same-sex marriage supporters is this decision may mean that a conservative Supreme Court will decide not to take the case.
HOW IS THIS RULING GOING TO AFFECT OTHER STATES?
Not directly, because it deals only with the unique circumstances of California. But if this decision stands, it will mean that approximately one-fifth of the population of the United States will soon live in states with same-sex marriage. That's an enormous change from zero states a decade ago. By the standards of civil rights battles, that's extremely fast change.
WHAT'S YOUR BEST GUESS ON WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN CALIFORNIA?
My best guess is that this decision will be the last word, though we will not know for sure for several months. I think it will be upheld in the 9th Circuit, but it will not go to the Supreme Court. It will not create a national precedent. But there are 39 million people in California – that’s a lot of people to have same-sex marriage. Technically, the decision applies only to California, but a victory in the nation's biggest state can create its own momentum.