Legal Briefing: California's Gay Marriage Ban Ends Aug. 18


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California Gay Marriage Ban Set to Lift Aug. 18

When Judge Vaughn Walker invalidated Proposition 8's prohibition on gay marriage as unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution, he didn't allow gay couples to marry right away. Instead, he stayed his ruling while he considered whether or not to allow marriages to go forward during the appeals process.

On Thursday, however, he decided that Prop. 8 supporters had virtually no chance of winning an appeal, so he lifted his stay as of 5:00 pm (PT), Aug. 18. He didn't lift it immediately, allowing the Ninth Circuit the opportunity to issue its own stay if it wishes. Although it has not yet issued a ruling, the Ninth Circuit has created a special website that allows people to subscribe to a listserve to get the latest news on its actions.

A key reason that Judge Walker believes an appeal will fail is procedural, and has nothing to do with whether or not his decision was correct. The Prop. 8 supporters may not have standing to appeal. When Judge Walker allowed them to intervene in the case, he specifically did not rule on the standing issue, as other defendants named in the action unquestionably had standing but were refusing to defend Prop. 8, such as Governor Schwarzenegger. No party with obvious standing has decided to appeal; in fact, the governor and others have urged Judge Walker to lift his stay and allow marriages to begin.

The issue as to whether or not groups like the Prop. 8 proponents have standing has not yet been squarely addressed by the Supreme Court. Judge Walker's order and the motion for stay by proponents lay out the opposing arguments thoroughly. If the Ninth Circuit denies the stay, proponents can appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is viewed as the swing vote on the merits of gay marriage.

Petition Names to Be Kept Secret for Now

In other gay marriage-related news, people who signed a petition to get Washington's domestic partners law repealed have persuaded a district court judge to keep their names secret for now. The judge will assess claims that the release of their names is so dangerous it meets the test the Supreme Court set out when the Court rejected the petition signers' initial effort to stay secret, reports the Blog of the Legal Times.

Alabama Sues BP

Citing "broken promises" by BP (BP), and noting concerns that BP was tying up expert witnesses and selling assets to keep them from American courts, Alabama has sued BP over the gulf spill, the ABA Journal reports.

And in the Business of Law

Baker & McKenzie's fiscal 2010 just closed with revenue flat but profits up due to layoffs and other cost cutting, reports theAmerican Lawyer.