The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that proponents of Proposition 8 have legal standing to contest District Judge Vaughn Walker’s earlier decision overturning the same-sex marriage ban. The official sponsor of Prop 8, ProtectMarriage.com, will now lead the charge in appealing Judge Walker’s resolution in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Due to both Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris declining to defend the proposition, ProtectMarriage.com had to demonstrate a sufficient stake in the controversy to be granted standing.
In explaining their reasoning behind the outcome of the case, the court underscored the importance of the original November 2008 vote on the proposition in which the initiative passed.
“It would clearly constitute an abuse of discretion for a court to deny the official proponents of an initiative the opportunity to participate as formal parties in the proceeding,” the court said. “…Either as interveners or as real parties in interest, in order to assert the people’s, and hence the state’s, interest in the validity of the measure and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure.”
Lecturer at the UC Davis School of Law and supervising attorney of the School of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, Carter White, further asserted that the court described the actions proponents of Prop 8 had taken — petitioning, gathering signatures, putting the proposition on the ballot and then having it pass — as being the will of the people.
“I think the court in this decision is trying to go to great lengths to say this decision isn’t about the merits of whether gay marriage is going to be allowed in the state,” White said.
White explains that there may be many other situations where the governor and attorney general may not want to defend a challenge against a properly passed initiative, thus causing a proponent of the issue to be its representative.
Now with their legal standing granted, ProtectMarriage.com will petition the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Judge Walker’s prior decision, which declared Prop 8 unconstitutional under both Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and professor of law at King Hall, Vikram Amar, speculated that the appeals court would uphold Judge Walker’s ruling.
However, Chief Deputy Clerk Recorder for Yolo County, Jeffrey Barry, said whether the court declares Prop 8 unconstitutional or legal, the opposing side of the decision will almost certainly appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
Two distinct reasons indicate that this case will most likely be accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals deals not only with California law but also with eight other western states. In addition, the case questions whether a proposition is legal under the U.S. Constitution.
“At some point the Supreme Court is going to look at whether gay marriage is constitutional,” White said. “Conventional wisdom seems to think that this could very well be the case that goes up to the Supreme Court and is accepted.”
Currently there is a stay inplace within California, suspending the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Barry asserts even if the court decides to uphold Judge Walker’s ruling a stay would remain pending further appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With an almost definite appeal to follow the decision given by the Ninth Court of Appeals and a possible acceptance of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court, same-sex marriage could still be years away.
KELLEY REES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.