SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Supporters of the ban on gay marriage in California can defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the state’s highest court ruled unanimously Thursday.
While the California Supreme Court said the conservative legal group ProtectMarriage.com can intervene in the fight over Proposition 8, the justices did not address the merits of the ban’s constitutionality.
“In a post-election challenge to a voter-approved initiative measure, the official proponents of the initiative are authorized under California law to appear and assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure when the public officials who ordinarily defend the measure or appeal such a judgment decline to do so,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker declared the voter initiative unconstitutional in August 2010, shortly before announcing his retirement. Debate over the ban has also produced a series of contentious offshoots, such as a fight to unseal tapes of the two-week bench trial and questions about Walker’s impartiality as an openly gay man with a partner of 10 years.
After Walker’s landmark decision, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to defend Proposition 8 on appeal, leading the Sacramento-based ProtectMarriage.com to step in. Unsure of the legality of that intervention, the 9th Circuit punted the issue of standing to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments on Sept. 6 this year.
At the hearing, the justices leaned toward allowing ProtectMarriage to argue on behalf of Prop. 8. Their ruling Thursday affirmed that indication.
“California courts have routinely permitted the official proponents of an initiative to intervene or appear as real parties in interest to defend a challenged voter-approved initiative measure in order ‘to guard the people’s right to exercise initiative power,’ or, in other words, to enable such proponents to assert the people’s, and hence the state’s, interest in defending the validity of the initiative measure,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote. “In this manner, the official proponents’ general ability to appear and defend the state’s interest in the validity of the initiative measure and to appeal a lower court judgment invalidating the measure serves to enhance both the fairness of the judicial process and the appearance of fairness of that process.”