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'Prop 8 backers' petition an attempt to halt equality'

June 30, 2013 16:24 IST

An emergency motion filed on Saturday asking the US supreme court to stop a flurry of same-sex weddings in California has upset the South Asian LGBT community. Ritu Jha reports

The South Asian LGBTQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning) community says they are upset and confused since the opponents of same sex marriage had filed an emergency application with the supreme court on Saturday to reverse the 9th Circuit’s decision.

The petition has been filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organisation that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith. It has asked the supreme court to vacate a premature order that the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued Friday.

"This action by Prop 8 proponents seems like yet another attempt to halt equality in our state, even after the supreme court has ruled the proposition to be unconstitutional," Raja Bhattar, director, LGBT Campus ResourceCenter at University of California Los Angeles told Rediff.com.

"Though I can understand their issues with protocol, trying to find any loophole to prevent same-sex marriages seems desperate," Bhattar added.

"I'm just sad that it has come to this," said Bhattar commenting on the petition filed.

Manoj Kumar, President of Satrang, a LGBTQQ community in Southern California told Rediff.com that they are confused and trying to understand the petition. "They are trying their best to blow this down," said Kumar.

Kumar said that until yesterday everyone was cheering. Attorney General Kamala Harris even presided the wedding of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier. Governor Jerry Brown told the California Department of Public Health clerks and registrar-recorders in all 58 California counties that same-sex marriage is now legal in California and that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples immediately. "So, it seems political," alleged Kumar.

According to the press release by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the 9th Circuit’s order prematurely lifted a stay on a district court order that had declared the amendment unconstitutional. Court rules require the 9th Circuit to wait for a certified copy of the judgment from the supreme court before taking action, and the high court has not yet issued its certified judgment.

“Everyone on all sides of the marriage debate should agree that the legal process must be followed,” said Senior Counsel Austin R Nimocks. The 9th Circuit made a clear representation upon which all parties should be able to rely -- that the stay would remain in place until final disposition by the supreme court.

On Friday, the 9th Circuit acted contrary to its own order without explanation. Last year, the 9th Circuit itself reminded all parties to the Proposition 8 case that the ‘integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge’s word.’ “We agree.”

When the 9th Circuit issued the stay, it said “the stay shall continue until final disposition by the supreme court.” That disposition, as the 9th Circuit acknowledged on Wednesday, will not occur until at least 25 days from June 26 under Rule 45 of the supreme court’s rules. The emergency application contends that the supreme court must issue its mandate before the 9th Circuit can lift its stay.

“The 9th Circuit’s June 28, Order purporting to dissolve the stay of the district court’s injunction is the latest in a long line of judicial irregularities that have unfairly thwarted petitioners’ defense of California’s marriage amendment…,” the application states. “Failing to correct the appellate court’s actions threatens to undermine the public’s confidence in its legal system.”

The application also notes that media reports indicate that some California officials began solemnising the relationships of same-sex couples, including both of the couples that filed suit against Proposition 8, within mere minutes of the 9th Circuit’s lifting of the stay.

“Our clients have not been given the time they are due and were promised so that they can make their next decision in the legal process,” said Nimocks. “The more than 7 million Californians that voted to enact Proposition 8 deserve nothing short of the full respect and due process our judicial system provides.”

A call left at California State Attorney's press office went unanswered.

Ritu Jha in California