Same-sex marriages resume in Bakersfield: 'I almost feel numb'

Same-sex marriages resume in Bakersfield: 'I almost feel numb' »Play Video
Same-sex marriages are held Monday, July 1, 2013, at the Kern County Courthouse in Bakersfield, Calif., after years of political and legal battles over the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Same-sex marriages resumed Monday morning in Bakersfield, 4½ years after voters banned them in the state through the initiative process.

Ministers performed the ceremonies at the Kern County Courthouse minutes after gay couples were issued marriage licenses.

“I'm so excited, I almost feel numb," said Jennifer Arnold, who was married Monday in Bakersfield. "It's one of those times in history that you think, 'I was there, we got to be there for the beginning of it,' so it’s overwhelming and exciting.”

Same-sex marriages actually resumed Friday evening at San Francisco City Hall after years of legal back-and-forth, which culminated with a U.S. Supreme Court decision last Wednesday that paved the way for the resumption of gay weddings in California.

A brief overview of what led to Monday's resumption of same-sex marriages in Bakersfield:

Proposition 8 was approved in November 2008 by a 52 percent vote and amended the California Con­sti­tu­tion to ban gay mar­riage. The initiative was an action taken by traditional-marriage advocates after Prop 22, a ban on same-sex marriages that voters passed in 2000, was struck down by the state's high court in May 2008.

In May 2009, California's Supreme Court upheld the state's gay-marriage ban but said the 18,000 same-sex weddings that took place before the prohibition passed were still valid.

Same-sex couples, including Bakersfield native Kris Perry, sued to overturn Proposition 8, and, in January 2010, the first federal trial to determine if the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from outlawing same-sex marriage got under way.

In April 2010, gay rights activists said they failed to qualify a measure that would repeal California's same-sex marriage ban for the November ballot. Restore Equality 2010 said the volunteer-run group fell short of gathering the nearly 695,000 signatures needed to put the initiative before voters.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's gay-marriage ban in August 2010. The landmark case was expected to eventually force the U.S. Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

Supporters of California's gay marriage ban filed an appeal of Walker's ruling the next day, Aug. 5, 2010. Then, on Aug. 6, 2010, then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a motion calling for resumption of same-sex weddings in the state.

A federal appeals court put same-sex weddings in California on hold indefinitely on Aug. 16, 2010, while it considered the constitutionality of the state's gay marriage ban.

The next month, the 3rd District Court of Appeal refused to order then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal a ruling that overturned the state's gay marriage ban. A conservative legal group requested the order after the governor and AG refused to defend Prop 8 in court.

In January 2011, The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals said that it cannot decide if the gay marriage ban is constitutional until the state high court weighs in on whether proposition sponsors have authority to defend the measure. The governor and AG refused to defend Prop 8 in court.

The California Supreme Court said in November 2011 that the sponsors of ballot propositions can step in to defend their initiatives from legal challenges if the governor and attorney general refuse to do so.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February 2012 that California's same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. Backers of Proposition 8 said they would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit ruling.

In December 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up California's ban on same-sex unions and a separate dispute about federal benefits for legally married gay couples. Kris Perry, a native Californian from Bakersfield, was one of the four named plaintiffs and public faces in the challenge to Prop 8 that would now go before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled last week - June 26, 2013 - that that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. The court's 5-4 vote left in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional.

The same day, Gov. Jerry Brown directed the California Department of Public Health to start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as soon as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay on a 2010 ruling that deemed Prop 8 unconstitutional. The appeals court said it would wait 25 days to lift the stay so backers of Prop 8 could ask the Supreme Court to rehear the case.

Kern County officials also said Wednesday that they would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples once the appeals court lifted the stay.

In a surprise move Friday - because it was only two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling - the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order saying it was dissolving a stay it imposed on gay marriages while a lawsuit challenging the state's voter-approved ban on such unions worked its way through the courts. 

The decision lets stand a trial judge's declaration that the ban violates the civil rights of gay Californians and cannot be enforced.

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Information from The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times was used in this report.