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.
[Updated at 1:26 p.m. ET] California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Tuesday.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to be appealed, to either the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. But supporters of same-sex marriages cheered the decision when it was announced outside the courthouse Tuesday morning.
The 2-1 decision found the ban – known as Proposition 8 – "served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." That violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law, the decision states.
The 9th Circuit, in a hearing just over a year ago, indicated it was inclined to toss out Proposition 8. The court also rejected arguments by supporters of the ban that now-retired federal judge Vaughn Walker – who found Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010 – should have recused himself and let another judge hear the case.
Walker disclosed after his retirement that he is gay and in a long-term relationship, leading Proposition 8 advocates to argue he should have stepped aside.
California's Supreme Court had allowed same-sex marriages in California. But Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote in 2008, bringing an end to the practice.
Prior to Walker's ruling, the California Supreme Court allowed that initiative to stand, saying it represented the will of the people.FULL STORY
The California Supreme Court ruled that "official proponents" of California's Proposition 8 – which defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman – can defend the ballot initiative in court when public officials refuse to do so.
This means a federal court fight over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage can continue.
Proposition 8 was approved in a California 2008 ballot, setting up a federal lawsuit by various gay couples seeking to wed. State leaders including current Gov. Jerry Brown have refused to defend the law in court, setting up the debate over who could defend Proposition 8.
Charles Cooper, attorney for Proposition 8's ballot sponsors, had said the official sponsors should be allowed to step in when the state refuses to defend such measures. The conservative group ProtectMarriage.com has been leading the legal fight to defend the initiative.FULL STORY
A federal judge who ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage in California and later revealed that he is gay showed no evidence he was prejudiced in the case, according to a ruling Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge James Ware upheld former colleague's Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling on California's Proposition 8. Questions had been raised about Walker's ability to impartially decide the controversial question of same-sex marriage.
"It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings," ruled Ware, based in San Francisco.
Ware backed the original ruling by Walker that the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in the state was unconstitutional. The new order keeps the issue on track to an expected Supreme Court challenge, perhaps by next year.FULL STORY
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday refused to allow same-sex marriages in California while a case on the issue works its way through the courts.
Last year, a federal judge declared that Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriages in California, was unconstitutional.
The civil rights challenge is now at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, where the issue is still unresolved.
Several gay and lesbian couples asked the court to be allowed to wed in the meantime. However, the three-judge appellate panel issued a brief order Wednesday that rejected the motion "at this time."
The award-winning writer-director of “Crash” has given The New Yorker an interview detailing the inner workings of Scientology. A member for 35 years, Haggis broke with the church in 2009 after it refused to condemn Proposition 8, which made marriage an institution between only man and woman in California.
In his letter of resignation to spokesman Tommy Davis, Haggis wrote that he could not align himself with an organization that would back "that hate-filled legislation." He concluded, “Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.”
Children's deaths raise questions – In a case a sheriff says has "a stench of foul play," two children were found dead in a South Carolina river, and police have arrested their mother. Shaquan Duley, 29, faces charges of leaving the scene of an accident, authorities said.
Divers found the bodies of Duley's two sons, ages 1 and 2, in her Chrysler sedan in the Edisto River near a boat landing after state troopers responded to a report of a car accident early Monday. The bodies were sent to the coroner for autopsies. It wasn't immediately known whether Duley had retained an attorney.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has blocked same-sex marriage in California, until it hears broader questions over the constitutionality of such marriages. The brief order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside a federal judge's decision August 4 permitting same-sex marriages to resume.
A federal judge has made it possible for same-sex couples to legally marry in the state of California starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT, unless a higher court intervenes.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco on Thursday lifted a temporary stay that had been placed last week in the case that overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
Last week, Walker struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that California's voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. A temporary stay on that ruling was put in place immediately afterward.
Thursday's decision will allow same-sex marriages to legally take place starting Wednesday "unless the supporters of Proposition 8 can get a higher court to overturn the ruling," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked a federal judge Friday to allow same-sex marriages while an appeal over an overturned law that banned them makes its way through the courts.
Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed briefs two days after Chief U.S District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.
In his Wednesday ruling, Walker also issued a temporary stay, which stopped his decision from taking effect.
If he lifts his stay, officials in California could immediately be allowed to perform same-sex marriages again. They were able to do so, briefly, before the Proposition 8 ban passed in 2008.
A federal judge in California struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution and handing supporters of gay rights a major victory in a case that both sides say is sure to wind up before the Supreme Court.
As soon as the ruling was handed down, iReporters, celebrities and politicians began to share their thoughts on the potentially landmark decision. Columnists and news and political organizations soon followed with opinions that varied from calling the ruling one of the biggest decisions in our lifetime to seeing it as a completely overreaching attempt at judicial activism.
Here's what they had to say:
"We strenuously hope that [U.S. District Judge Vaughn] Walker's decision will be upheld by the high court. But no matter what happens, the trial in San Francisco delivered an unforgettable lesson in what Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage really mean.
"From now on, it will be harder for opponents of same-sex unions to continue mouthing canards. The public as well as the courts have had an opportunity to hear the facts. The debate over same-sex marriage will never be quite the same again."
– Los Angeles Times editorial
"Proposition 8 was based on discrimination, prejudice and religion. The Constitution protects rights of the individuals that often the majority would take away from the minority. That's why we don't vote on these issues."
– iReporter Cliff Olney of Watertown, New York
'Extreme judicial activism'
"Today's decision by a federal district judge in San Francisco striking down state constitutional protections for marriage and inventing a spurious federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage is an example of extreme judicial activism. Moreover, it is an affront to the millions of California voters who approved Proposition 8 in 2008 after months of vigorous public debate.
"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The people of California, and the United States, have made clear in numerous ways that they have not consented to the redefinition of marriage. For the past two decades they have considered the arguments advanced by some for overturning marriage as it has been understood in our country. In state after state — 45 in all - they have chosen to reaffirm the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have done so because they understand that establishing same-sex marriage would transform the institution into a set of private interests rather than buttress it as a multi-generational reality binding mothers, fathers and their children biologically, socially and legally."
– Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation
A federal judge in California on Wednesday struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution - handing supporters of gay rights a major victory in a case that both sides say is sure to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 136-page opinion, issued by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco, is an initial step in what will likely be a lengthy fight over California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
At stake in the trial was whether California's ban on same-sex marriage violates gay couples' rights to equal protection and due process, as protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The high-profile case is being watched closely by both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, as many say it is destined to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, the case could result in a landmark decision on whether people in the United States are allowed to marry people of the same sex.
[Updated at 8:17 p.m.] Here is more reaction to Wednesday's federal ruling that struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage:
Brian Raum, attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund: "In America, we should respect and uphold the right of a free people to make policy choices through the democratic process - especially ones that do nothing more than uphold the definition of marriage that has existed since the foundation of the country and beyond."
Human Rights Campaign: "The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work - in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms - until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere."