The California Supreme Court ruled today that gay marriage foes can fight the reversal of Prop 8.
Because the offices of the governor and state attorney general refuse to defend the same-sex marriage ban, legal scholars such as UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky had opined that Prop 8 proponents have no legal standing to appeal a federal court ruling against the voter initiative.
The state's high court said its decision had nothing to do with the constitutionality of gay marriage but rather the idea of challenging voter initiatives.
Although the federal appeals court that currently has the case is not bound by a state supreme court ruling, some legal experts believe it will likely remove the legal standing debate from the equation, clearing the way for an eventual U.S. Supreme Court handling of the constitutionality question.
Do not count Jon Davidson, Lambda Legal's legal director, among those experts.
“Today's ruling does not settle the question as to whether Prop 8 proponents have standing in federal court,” he says via the gay rights organization's website. “It remains up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to
decide whether or not the U.S. Constitution allows initiative proponents
to defend a challenge to the measure the proponents supported when
elected state officials don't. We think the U.S. Supreme Court has made
clear that they don't.”
Sponsors of the ballot measure rejoiced today's decision.
“This ruling is a huge disaster for the homosexual marriage extremists,” Andy Pugno, an attorney for ProtectMarriage, tells the Los Angeles Times. “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
… keeping the voters completely unrepresented. Today that all crumbled
before their eyes.”
In any event, Davidson believes Prop 8 foes will ultimately prevail.
“While a disappointing ruling, this case is now back in federal court,
where we expect a quick victory,” Davidson says. “The ruling addresses only a procedural
legal question. The key question underlying this case is whether the
U.S. Constitution permits a state electorate to treat one group of
people unequally to everyone else by depriving them of what the state's
high court has held to be a fundamental right. A federal court has
already ruled that it may not. We look forward to seeing that decision
upheld so that same-sex couples in California may once again enjoy the
freedom to marry.”