Even if California is late to the party, even if the weddings go forward without high court affirmation of the wrongness of Proposition 8, the pending demise of the gay marriage ban is a history-making event for both the state and the nation. An era of emotional political division is churning to an end, and when it does, it will add the nation's most populous state to the growing roster of places where gay and lesbian couples and their families enjoy equal footing in society and before the law.
Wednesday's ruling clears the path for the resumption of same-sex weddings, this time for good, and officials should press for that return as soon as it can be legally and pragmatically managed. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals imposed a stay on same-sex marriages pending the Supreme Court decision, which is not considered final for 25 days. The appeals court could lift its stay earlier, and if that won't lead to further legal tangles, it should do so. Gay and lesbian couples already have waited far too long for the rights that have been denied them.
Defenders of Proposition 8 may have a few remaining legal options, but those appear limited and their chances exceedingly dim. Among other things, defenders claim that the 2010 ruling by then-U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who found that the proposition violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection, might be construed to cover only the two couples who sued rather than all same-sex couples, or might apply only to the counties involved in the case — Los Angeles and Alameda. But a strong refutation of the latter argument was offered this month by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who noted that state officials are obligated to govern marriage equally in all counties and that Walker's ruling specifically covers those officials.
The foes of same-sex marriage might eke out a few more legal objections, but the fate of Proposition 8 appears sealed. And once weddings of gays and lesbians have taken place in large numbers, Californians will see the truth that emerged in the federal trial: These marriages pose no threat to traditional heterosexual marriage or to family life. In fact, they will only strengthen and stabilize families in the state. Some people may never accept that view, but their numbers are dwindling and their arguments are losing. California will soon be rid of Proposition 8, and most of the state's residents will never miss it.