Ruling: Gay marriage foes can fight for Prop. 8 in federal court
California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that backers of Prop. 8 – which banned gay marriage in the state – can defend the measure in federal court, in lieu of state officials who declined to do so. The ruling means a major federal lawsuit proceeds.
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The ruling shifts the spotlight back to the Ninth Circuit. Should that court rule that Proposition 8 proponents have legal standing in the case, it will then address the central issue – whether the US Constitution is offended by California’s ban on same-sex marriage.Skip to next paragraph
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The pending dispute is one of the most significant and closely watched appeals court cases in the country.
Rick Jacobs, founder of the gay rights group Courage Campaign, warned that participation by Proposition 8 organizers in the litigation would set a dangerous precedent. It might “open the floodgates to wealthy special interests to do the same” in future ballot initiatives, he said.
“The judges of the Ninth Circuit must determine if people who had enough money to buy a ballot measure that calls for people to vote on each other’s rights should have special rights in federal court,” Mr. Jacobs said in a statement.
“While we respect the recommendation that the California Supreme Court made to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it is only a recommendation,” he said.
Proposition 8 sponsors, ProtectMarriage.com, applauded the California Supreme Court’s decision. “This victory is an enormous boost for Proposition 8 as well as the integrity of the initiative process itself,” the group said in a statement.
The statement called the decision “a huge disaster for the homosexual marriage extremists.” It added: “The court totally rejected their demands that their lawsuit to invalidate Proposition 8 should win by default with no defense. Their entire strategy relied on finding a biased judge and keeping the voters completely unrepresented.”
The group said: “Today that all crumbled before their eyes.”
The California Supreme Court decision marked the first time the state high court ruled on the issue of whether proponents of a successful ballot initiative may defend their measure in court.
The court said that once a ballot measure has been approved by voters effectively amending the state constitution, state officials have no authority to veto it. But if ballot initiative proponents lack the authority to defend the measure in a subsequent court challenge, state officials could effectively veto it by simply refusing to argue for its retention.
“It would exalt form over substance to interpret California law in a manner that would permit these public officials to indirectly achieve such a result by denying the official initiative proponents the authority to step in,” Justice Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
The case was Perry v. Brown (S189476).
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