Prop 8 case heads back to court in September

Retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

The next hearing in the legal battle over Proposition 8, California’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, will take place before the state’s Supreme Court on Sept. 6.

The issue is whether the ballot initiative’s sponsors have standing to appeal a federal district judge’s ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to appeal the ruling. Brown is now governor and maintains his position in the case.

The hearing will take place in San Francisco and the justices have 90 days to decide whether they believe state law gives ballot measure proponents legal standing when the elected officials refuses to defend an issue, according to the LA Times.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will wait for the state Supreme Court’s decision before proceeding.

If Prop 8 backers don’t have standing, the appeals court won’t take up the merits of the appeal. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling will stand and Prop 8 will be unconstitutional. California would then allow same-sex marriage, as it did for six months before Prop 8 passed in 2008.

If Prop 8 backers do have standing, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would consider the merits of the case.

The LA Times reports that while the state Supreme Court has given sponsors of propositions wide latitude, the court has never ruled on whether citizens can stand in for elected officials, especially on an issue that doesn’t affect them.

Presumably, the proponents of Prop 8 were trying to prevent other people from marrying and having civil rights — as opposed to campaigning for a ban to prevent themselves from marrying.

—  David Taffet

Judge rejects motion to vacate Prop 8 ruling

Judge Vaughn Walker

A federal judge today upheld a ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, rejecting a motion to vacate the ruling on the grounds that the judge who issued it is gay.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware handed down his decision this afternoon after hearing arguments on the motion Monday. Ware denied the motion from supporters of California’s same-sex marriage ban, who argued that Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself because he’s in a long-term relationship with another man. Walker declared Prop 8 unconstitutional in August.

“The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification under Section 455(b)(4),” Ware wrote in his decision. “Further, under Section 455(a), it is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings. Accordingly, the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED.”

Peter Renn, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal who attended Monday’s hearing, said: “The court decisively rejected an outrageous attack on the integrity of Judge Walker, not to mention judges in general. The motion was a sideshow designed to deflect attention from the fact that the proponents had every chance to prove that Prop 8 was constitutional, but could not do so. Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional because it is unconstitutional — not because the judge is gay.”

Read Ware’s full decision here.

—  John Wright

LGBT leaders praise Ted Olson's performance during closing arguments in federal Prop 8 trial

Plaintiffs’ attorney says marriage ban causes ‘grave and irreparable’ harm; other side warns ‘no one can know’ consequences of overturning it

By Lisa Keen | Keen News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — There were so many people trying to get in to watch the final day of the landmark trial challenging California’s same-sex marriage ban, the court staff had to set up an additional overflow room for observers.

Those dozen or so members of the public who managed to snare seats in Courtroom 6 on the 17th floor of San Francisco’s federal courthouse building had to stand in line starting at 5:45 Wednesday morning to get them.

But gays in California are used to standing in line. They stood in line exactly two years ago – June 16, 2008 — to be among the first same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state. Now, they were watching closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a historic case challenging the November 2008 initiative that took away the right for gay couples to obtain marriage licenses in California.

—  John Wright