AN FRANCISCO - MARCH 5: People rally in front of the California Supreme Court Building as arguments are heard for and against Proposition 8 on March 5, 2009 in San Francisco, California. The controversial proposition that prohibits gays and lesbians the right to marry is being challenged by the gay community. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
That could spell disaster for thousands of vulnerable LGBT couples. In one of the most poignant examples, the Courage Campaign has highlighted the plight of Derence Kernek and Ed Watson, together 40 years. Ed has Alzheimer's, and the couple desperately wants to marry before he loses the ability to recognize his partner.
Other gay couples could face deportation without access to marriage equality. For years, the federal government's policy has been to disregard LGBT partnerships when considering immigration appeals. Gay and lesbian partners were routinely sent back to their countries of origin, often forced to faced the same dangerous anti-gay environment that led to them to flee to the United States in the first place.
But that trend may be reversing. Earlier this week, a judge in New York ruled that a legally-married lesbian couple was entitled to an adjournment of deportation proceedings while the government reviews its long-standing ban on equal protection for LGBTs.
That ruling was possible in part because the couple in question had obtained a marriage in one of the states that allows it. California is no longer one of those states, so Californian couples could still be forced to leave the country.
Other couples face issues relating to health insurance, child custody, and the right to file wrongful death lawsuits.
The next steps for Prop 8 are a hearing before the California Supreme Court in September, with a ruling due several weeks afterwards.