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Prop 8 stay ends next week, setting stage for California gay marriage

The Prop 8 stay imposed by US District Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled last week that the California gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional, is set to expire Aug. 18, clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California.

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Billy Bradford of Castro Valley, Calif., waves a pair of flags outside City Hall while same-sex couples line up to see if they can be married in San Francisco, Thursday.

Eric Risberg/AP

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US District Judge Vaughn Walker refused Thursday to extend a stay – placed on his ruling that declared California’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional – beyond next week.

The decision clears the way for same-sex marriages to begin again in California on Aug. 18, barring intervention from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Walker did not immediately end the stay to give the appeals court time to weigh in on the matter.

While the judge’s decision was greeted with much enthusiasm by opponents of Proposition 8, the voter-approved gay-marriage ban, there was certainly some disappointment among the many unmarried same-sex couples who were lining up at court houses and clerks’ offices in anticipation of the stay being lifted Thursday afternoon.

"[Walker's] opinions make exceptionally clear why Proposition 8 fails Constitutional examination, and he has made even more clear how the [proponents of the ban] don't satisfy his requirements for staying his opinion of last week," says Elizabeth Cooper, a Fordham University law professor.

"It's excruciating to be ready to get married and be denied the right to, and I think Walker recognizes that in his initial opinion," she says. But rather than an acknowledgment of the merits of Proposition 8 supporters' case, she says the delay is meant as a procedural courtesy to the court of appeals.

Walker declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in a broad Aug. 4 ruling that may eventually amount to a landmark court decision for gay rights, if it is allowed to stand by the appeals court or eventually the US Supreme Court, where many expect the case to eventually be decided.

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