Though a California judge overturned gay-marriage ban Proposition 8 yesterday, that’s hardly the first step. The decision will jump through several legal hoops on what some say is an inevitable road to the Supreme Court.
After U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned the measure, he immediately issued a stay on his decision, which means it will not go into effect until appeals are filed. The stay goes until at least Friday, when there will be another hearing. During this hearing, Judge Walker will hear arguments and decide whether to extend the stay pending appeals. If he decides not to extend the stay, then Prop. 8 advocates will appeal that decision with the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. (Read more about why Judge Walker made his decision.)
Then, losing side will probably file a “merits” appeal with the 9th Circuit, located in San Francisco. During this trial, lawyers will argue in front of three judges, who will then release a written opinion. This court has a reputation for having liberal judges, but the three judges are chosen randomly. Then, whatever side loses this appeal can file an “en banc” complaint to be heard in front of 11 judges on the court. None of this process has a deadline, so this saga could drag on for a while. (See a visual history of the gay-rights movement.)
After the appeals court decides, then the losing side can ask the Supreme Court to take their case. This may come even instead of the “en banc” process. Legal battles could have gone on for a year before this happens. Legal experts say the Supreme Court will probably take this case, but it may not if the appeals court reverses Walker’s decision or voters reverse Prop. 8 at the ballot. That, after all this time in court, would render any decision moot.