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FAQ: What Prop 8 and DOMA rulings mean for gay marriage in California at a glance

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal related to Proposition 8, and in doing so, cleared the way for same-sex marriage to be legal in California.

SCOTUS also ruled that DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, was unconstitutional, and that the benefits available to legally married heterosexual couples should be available to legally married gay couples.

Q. Is gay marriage legal in the state of California now?

A. Sort of. SCOTUS' decision itself doesn't legalize gay marriage, or speak to the validity of gay marriage bans, but the lower court decision overturning Prop 8 still stands.

Q. Does this ruling make gay marriage legal everywhere in California? 

A. Sort of. If Attorney General of the State of California Kamala Harris has her way, the answer is yes. Harris tweeted Wednesday morning her opinion that the Prop 8 ruling should apply to all of California, not just specific counties. 

Q. How soon until same-sex marriages resume in California?

A. It could be soon. Harris, speaking in a press conference Wednesday morning, said that she will urge the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to  act as soon as possible. "As soon as they lift the stay, marriages are on. And wedding bells will ring," she said. 

But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it will wait 25 days to lift its stay, the period of time that the Supreme Court can take to finalize its ruling, though it has the option of lifting the stay before then if it wants (or if the court accedes to a formal petition from Harris' office, which has not yet filed one).

If the court waits, it's likely that same-sex marriages may not resume until about a month from now.

One other possibility: The 9th Circuit Court could keep the stay in place, barring gay marriages  beyond the 25-day period, if Prop 8 proponents ask for a rehearing on their appeal. It's unclear whether they will. 

Q. Can legally married gay couples file for income tax deductions and receive the same tax, health and retirement benefits as different sex couples?

A. Yes, the ruling against DOMA should allow legally married gay couples (or, in some cases, a surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage) to receive the same benefits and tax breaks available to legally married  heterosexual couples.

Q. Is there a possibility that things could change again?

A. Yes, there is a remote possibility that opponents of Prop 8 could qualify with standing with which to attempt an appeal. It's also possible, though unlikely, that the State of California, the potential appellant with true standing, could choose to appeal the district court ruling overturning Prop 8.

Q. This is confusing. In 10 words or less explain the history of Prop 8 and where it stands today after the SCOTUS announcement.

A. Currently there's no ban on banning California's gay marriage ban. (Maybe this will help: Our timeline of the tortuous path to Wednesday's rulings.)

Q. I still don't get it. Explain in bullet points how we got here.

  • Prop 8 was a ban.
  • It prohibited gay marriage in California 
  • The measure was passed by voters
  • And same-sex marriages became illegal
  • Then there was a backlash 
  • An appeal happened
  • Prop 8 was overturned and the ban was banned
  • Gay marriage would have resumed,  BUT —
  • There was an appeal of the appeal to ban the ban 
  • And the issue escalated to the Supreme Court.
  • Cut to Wednesday morning.
  • SCOTUS says the defenders of California's gay marriage ban didn't have standing to appeal the lower court ruling to overturn it
  • SCOTUS' decision itself doesn't legalize gay marriage, or speak to the validity of gay marriage bans, but without standing to appeal, the prior decision stands.
  • Prior decision was to overthrow Prop 8
  • And  now gay marriage is  legal in California. Sort of.

RELATEDPOLL: Prop 8 ruling legalizes gay marriage in California; DOMA ruled unconstitutional (Read the full decisions; photos, reactions)

RELATED: FAQ: A look at the Supreme Court's options on gay marriage

RELATED: What the justices said in Supreme Court arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act

RELATED: Prop 8 timeline: A look back at same-sex marriage legislation in California

This story has been updated to clarify the legal ramifications of the rulings.

With contributions from KPCC staff

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