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Prop 8 proponents' filing today delays decision indefinitely

SAN FRANCISCO – Supporters of California’s Proposition 8 continue to drag out the historic legal case involving marriage equality, this afternoon making a last-minute filing seeking an expanded review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Feb. 7.

The motion was filed at 2:55 pm today at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

It is now abundantly clear that the Yes on 8 proponents are seeking to delay the outcome of the Prop 8 case for the longest-possible amount of time. Lawyers for the proponents put on a much-criticized defense of marriage discrimination in District Court in San Francisco, leading Judge Vaughn Walker to rule on Aug. 4, 2010, that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The Appeals Court upheld Walker’s ruling on narrower legal grounds.

Today was the last day that proponents could petition the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an expanded review of the appeals court’s ruling on Feb. 7 that upheld the lower court ruling that the California law was unconstitutional.

The proponents today asked for an en banc hearing by a larger panel of appeals court judges, objecting to the decision of the three-judge panel from the appeals court.

The en banc process takes a lengthy amount of time, because there are more than two dozen judges on the appeal court. The judges will have to decide among themselves whether to grant an en banc hearing, and it will require a majority vote. If an en banc hearing is permitted, the chief judge and 10 randomly selected appeals court judges would preside over the case, which usually involved more briefings and oral arguments. In essence, it’s like conducting another trial.

Another big question looms over the case: What about the stay issued in the Feb. 7 ruling?

Jacob Combs, writing for the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, says the stay will be automatically extended until that rehearing is either denied or accepted and then ruled on, both of which could take some time.

The question of when gay and lesbian couples in California can again legally marry is still very much up in the air.

Lawyers for American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which successfully argued that Prop 8 is unconstitutional, plan to ask the appeals court to lift the stay to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in California. It’s a long shot.