California Supreme Court to hear standing issue

The California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would re-enter the legal battle surrounding same-sex marriage and seek to hear further arguments by September.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger
, the federal lawsuit challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage, stalled last month, when a three judge panel for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it did not know whether it had jurisdiction to hear the case.  The panel said that it needed more information on California law.  Specifically, it needed to know whether the official proponents of a successful California ballot measure can defend that measure in court when the state’s normal law enforcement officers refuse to do so.

At the moment, California’s statutes and court decisions do not adequately address this question, so the federal court has requested additional guidance from the California Supreme Court.  On Wednesday, the California court unanimously announced its intent to  answer.  The court also said that it would expedite the matter and require submission of the parties’ first briefs in March.

The question of who can defend a ballot measure on appeal is important because two California administrations have refused to support Proposition 8.  First, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Attorney General Jerry Brown chose not to defend the ban when gay marriage advocates filed Perry in 2009.  Both officials said they doubted the voter initiative would pass constitutional muster.  Then, in 2010, California voters chose Brown as their new governor and installed Attorney General Kamala Harris.  These officials are continuing the no-defense policy now that the federal case is in appellate court.

In addition, the Ninth Circuit has already ruled that Imperial County, its Board of Supervisors, and a deputy county clerk have no standing to appeal Judge Vaughn Walker’s August decision, which declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This means that the only organization left to champion the cause is ProtectMarriage.com and its supporters, who wrote Proposition 8 three years ago and gathered signatures to place it on the 2008 ballot.

If the California Supreme Court says that these people have standing to appeal, then the case will return to the Ninth Circuit, which will address the constitutional dimensions of same-sex marriage in California.  The case will also be back on track for a potential hearing in the United States Supreme Court.

However, if the California Supreme Court says that Proposition 8’s supporters do not have standing, then Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling might remain in place, and California’s same-sex marriages might begin again.  The case could end there.  Another alternative is that the Ninth Circuit will determine that the proponents still have appellate standing under federal law and that the court will continue to hear the case.

At a minimum, the California Supreme Court’s unanimous decision yesterday gives a timetable for the next chapter in this story.  The court stated that it would like to hold oral argument as early as September 2011.

Click here to read the California Supreme Court order.

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2 Responses to “California Supreme Court to hear standing issue”

  1. George Vreeland Hill Says:

    When two people get married, it is because they love each other.
    They want to be together in a bond that makes them one with each other forever.
    It is a wonderful thing to have such a bond.
    It is special.
    It is love.
    When a man and a woman get married, no one blinks an eye.
    If two men or two women do the same, then many people do not approve.
    They claim that it is not right or that it soils the real meaning of marriage.
    What is the real meaning of marriage?
    The answer to that question is in line one of this article.
    It is because they love each other.
    Does it matter if the couple is gay or straight?
    Should it matter?
    No!
    After all, why should it.
    Gays want their equal rights and among those equal rights is the right to be married.
    I agree with wanting equal rights.
    We are all people which means we are all the same.
    It does not matter if someone is gay, white, black, a man, a woman, tall, short, young, old or whatever.
    We all want our equal rights.
    That is our right.
    However, we need to go beyond equal rights when it comes to gay marriage.
    Society needs to understand that any marriage is not about the right to be married.
    It is about wanting to be married as a loving couple.
    Love is not something that should be decided on by voters.
    It is not a court issue either.
    It should not be an issue at all.
    Marriage is between two people in love.
    It is not between two people, the voters, the courts and anyone else who has an opinion.
    Gay marriage does not bring down the meaning of marriage.
    It makes the true meaning of marriage even better.
    That is what love does.
    It makes things better.
    Society has come a long way in the last fifty years in terms of equality, but we still have a long way to go.
    It is a shame that love is something that needs to be fought for.
    I am not gay, but I am the same as you as you are to me.
    May love conquer all.

    George Vreeland Hill

  2. Love is love. The circumstances should not matter.

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