Q What does the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Proposition 8 case mean for legalizing same-sex marriage in California?
A Barring unforeseen developments, it is likely that same-sex marriages will begin in the near future, most likely by the latter part of July.
Q Is there any roadblock left to same-sex marriages in California, or anything that could accelerate the process?
A Proposition 8 supporters argue that a federal judge's 2010 ruling blocking enforcement of the gay marriage ban does not apply statewide, and may not have legal effect at all. Most legal experts say this argument is unlikely to prevail, but it could tie things up with further legal battles. And it is possible matters could move more swiftly if a federal appeals court agrees to the attorney general's request to allow same-sex marriages to proceed immediately or sooner than the typical 25-day waiting period for Supreme Court rulings to become final.
Q What does the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act mean for California and the rest of the country?
A DOMA barred same-sex couples from federal benefits, such as married tax recognition and surviving spouse rights. With the law now off the books, the federal government must treat legally married same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples in terms of benefits. This covers 18,000 couples married in California in 2008, as well as those who may now marry soon with the apparent demise of Proposition 8.
Q How soon might same-sex couples marry in California?
A The most widespread estimate is about 25 days, the typical time frame for Supreme Court rulings to become final. Attorney General Kamala Harris is trying to move things faster, but that is considered unlikely.
Q Will same-sex couples be able to marry in all 58 counties in California?
A Most likely, but there could be counties that resist and argue that the state cannot order them to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That could result in further legal skirmishes involving those counties.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236. Follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.