Prop 8: Sponsors Allowed to Defend Controversial Marriage Measure

The California Supreme Court ruled today that sponsors of Proposition 8 have the legal right to defend the controversial ballot initiative in federal court.

In August of 2010 a district court struck down Prop 8 — the California voter initiative passed in 2008 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  Because California’s Governor and its Attorney General declined to defend the law in federal court , Prop 8's sponsors stepped forward to do so.  A federal appeals court took up the case, but put it on hold in order to ask the state’s highest court whether the sponsors have the legal right to bring the case.

Today’s decision is an advisory opinion that will be sent to the federal appeals court. That court will then take the ruling under consideration and determine on its own whether it thinks the supporters have the legal standing to bring the case.

“The California Supreme Court’s decision punts the ball right back to the Ninth Circuit, which will now have to decide whether Prop. 8's proponents may go forward as a matter of federal law, and, if so, whether the district court was right to strike down California’s ban on gay marriage,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, Professor of law at American University.” “The Ninth Circuit may have been looking for a way out of deciding this case, but the California Supreme Court refused to give them one”

The National Organization for Marriage , a group that supports Prop 8 , issued this statement.:

“It has been nothing short of shameful to see Governor Jerry Brown, his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Kamala Harris abdicate their constitutional responsibility to defend Proposition 8 in Court,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president.  “Although today’s ruling from the California Supreme Court confirms that the proponents of Prop 8 have the right to defend their initiative when the state officials refuse to fulfill their sworn duty, it is gratifying to know that the over 7 million Californians who supported the initiative will have a vigorous defense of their decision in our federal courts.”