SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that advocates of the controversial Proposition 8 have the right to defend the ban on same-sex marriage. As a result, Prop 8 will be taken to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a decision will be made by the judges to determine if the ruling is in accordance with the California Supreme Court. Following the decision the court will determine whether or not to uphold now retired Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
In 2010 a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8 violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution. Prop 8 supporters asked many state officials, including the Governor and Attorney General, to appeal the ruling, which they denied. Following the decision Prop 8’s legal counsel filed their own appeal. Their opponents argued they lacked the necessary legal standing to defend the law, claiming only California officials had that power. The federal appeals court asked the California Supreme Court for their ruling, which was answered in the affirmative: the proponents of Prop 8 have the right to appear in the defense of the initiative.
Supporters of same-sex marriage acknowledge that the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow citizens to defend legislation could be detrimental in other cases, but believe Thursday’s ruling will not lead to a similar judgment at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “While a disappointing ruling, this case is now back in federal court, where we expect a quick victory,” Prop 8 opponents, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund said in a written statement. “In addition, today’s ruling does not settle the question as to whether Prop 8 proponents have standing in federal court.”
Overall the Court’s decision gives initiative proponents more power and allows a bypass of the limitations put in place on the initiative process. The California Constitution grants voters the power to propose and vote on initiatives. However in no way does it allow the voters to exercise the power of the executive branch — that is, to enforce and defend state law. Following the most recent decision, many believe lines are now blurred in the checks and balances system that has until now upheld the traditions of a modern democracy.
“This victory is an enormous boost for Proposition 8 as well as the integrity of the initiative process itself,” the organization said in a written statement. “This ruling is a huge disaster for the homosexual marriage extremists. The Court totally rejected their demands that their lawsuit to invalidate Proposition 8 should win by default with no defense.” Ted Olsen, one of the prosecutors in the case, said, “We have made the point that constitutional rights are being violated every day, and every minute of every day, for thousands and thousands of couples in California.” He also stated that gay couples endure pain and that it is “intolerable for that violation to the Constitution to go on.” If the Ninth Circuit rules that Prop 8 proponents have legal standing, they will then decide whether California’s ban on same-sex marriage is in violation of the US Constitution.