LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Because the Supreme Court did not rule on voter-approved Proposition 8, which bars gay marriage in California, United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 decision to overturn the ban will stand.
"We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.
The decision only affects marriages in California, which are expected to resume in as early as 25 days. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says it will take at least that long for the Supreme Court's ruling to become official and that the court could bar gay marriages beyond that if proponents of Proposition 8 ask for a rehearing.
Prop. 8 was being challenged by two California same-sex couples after it was approved by 7 million voters in 2008.
The lower court must take action to lift the stay before county clerk's offices can issue marriage licenses based on the decision, the Los Angeles County Clerk said in a statement.
Supreme Court Allows Same-Sex Marriages To Resume In Calif.
Attorney General Kamala Harris said if it were up to her, she would immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Harris said she asked the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals to not wait the mandatory 25 days to enforce the Supreme Court rulings, but her request was denied.
"As soon as they lift that stay, marriages are on," Harris said.
In a 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court also struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, saying legally married same-sex couples should get the same tax, health and retirement benefits as married heterosexual couples.
DOMA is a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but will now allow same-sex couples to receive federal benefits.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined in his decision by four other liberal justices.
"Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways," Kennedy said. "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Scalia dissented.
The decisions come as the public has shown increasing support for gay marriage.
The latest PEW Research Center survey shows 72 percent of those polled called same-sex marriage inevitable.
Groups opposed to the unions say the shift has been so swift that the justices should allow debate over the issue to play out in individual states.
San Vicente Boulevard will be closed Wednesday from noon until 11 p.m. between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard for a community rally in response to the rulings.
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