The California Supreme Court ruled last week that the sponsors of Proposition 8 have the right to defend it in court when the state refuses to do so. This ruling means that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the constitutionality of Prop. 8 and sets the stage for a federal ruling which could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
If the ability to appeal the ruling from Federal Judge Vaughn Walker striking down Prop. 8 not been granted, same-sex marriage would have been allowed to resume in the California.
The Supreme Court stressed the importance of maintaining the integrity of the ballot initiative process and said it would undermine the process if the attorney general and governor could trump the citizen vote.
“The inability of the official proponents of an initiative measure to appeal a trial court judgment invalidating the measure, when the public officials who ordinarily would file such an appeal decline to do so, would significantly undermine the initiative power,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court.
While this is a minor setback for some gay rights groups, it is not a total defeat and the Appeals Court is likely to uphold the decision to strike down Prop. 8, said Chad H. Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The Ninth Circuit is the largest appeals court in the nation and its decisions can have an enormous impact on legal precedents, he said.
“The District Court decision that affirmed the right to marry for gay and lesbian Americans has had tremendous impact on public opinion. Since we filed the Perry case, seven national polls now show that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. That support will only grow as our case progresses and Americans are able to see the truth: when you look at the facts no American should ever be denied the fundamental freedom to marry,” Griffin said.
The Appeals Court does not have a slated date to hear the case, but a ruling is expected sometime in 2012.
“The anti-marriage activists that passed Prop. 8 have used up every trick in their book to delay, conceal and distract from the truth. Now they need to confront the fact that they have no case,” Griffin said.