The California Supreme Court today announced that it will issue its opinion tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 17, on whether supporters of Proposition 8 have standing to appeal a trial court ruling that the voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, according to this report at MetroWeekly.com.
Voters passed Prop 8 in the November 2008 election, 52 percent to 48 percent, just months after the state Supreme Court issued a ruling saying that a law prohibiting same-sex marriage in California violated the state’s Constitution. Prop 8, however, amended the California Constitution, adding a clause declaring that only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized there.
The vote sparked widespread protests, and opponents soon filed a federal lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, claiming that Prop 8 violates the 14th Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection in the U.S. Constitution. Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown chose not to defend the case in court, saying he, too, believed Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supported the lawsuit because it asked important constitutional questions that needed to be answered, but none of the other state officials named as defendents were willing to defend the case in court, either.
At that point, a group called ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Prop 8 in the election, and a second group called the Campaign for California Families both filed motions to intervene to defend the amendment. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker allowed ProtectMarriage.com to intervene but denied the second group’s effort. Imperial County filed a motion to intervene to defend Prop 8, but their motion was also denied because the deadline for filing had passed.
In August 2010, Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. He placed the ruling on hold, however, pending appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, a stay which the 9th Court later extended. ProtectMarriage.com appealed Walker’s ruling to the 9th Circuit, and again Brown and Schwarzenegger refused to defend the amendment in court. And this time, Walker’s ruling cast doubt on whether ProtectMarriage.com actually had legal standing to appeal his ruling.
A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court heard oral arguments on the case on Dec. 6, 2010 and a month later, on Jan. 4, 2011, the 9th Circuit judges sent the request to the California Supreme Court, asking for an opinion on whether ProtectMarriage.com had legal standing to appeal Walker’s ruling.
Regardless of how the California Supreme Court rules tomorrow on the question of standing, the case is still a long way from settled. Whichever way the three-judge 9th Circuit panel eventually rules on the constitutionality of Prop 8, those on the losing side of that argument will likely appeal first to the full 9th Circuit Court, and from there to the U.S. Supreme Court.