gay_cityhall_gavel.jpgThe California Supreme Court unanimously agreed today to decide whether the official sponsors of Proposition 8 have the right to defend the same-sex marriage ban before a federal appeals court.

The court, in an order issued at its San Francisco headquarters, said it will give the case “expedited consideration” and may hear arguments as early as September.

Its decision will be due within 90 days of that hearing.

The court accepted a request made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals last month for an opinion on whether state law allows sponsors of an initiative to defend it in court.

The question of the sponsors’ standing, or legal authority, to appeal is a key issue in their bid to appeal a decision in which U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker last year struck down the 2008 voter initiative banning same-sex marriage in California.

The California officials who were named as defendants have declined to appeal Walker’s decision, and the Proposition 8 sponsors want to step in to conduct an appeal.

But a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said in last month’s request that federal law doesn’t appear to allow initiative proponents to appeal rulings when state officials refused to do so.

The question of whether state law allows such appeals is therefore “critical” to whether the federal appeals court can consider the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the panel said.

“We cannot consider this important constitutional question unless the appellants before us have standing to raise it,” the appeals court said.

Today’s action by the state high court means that there will be a legal detour of at least seven months before the federal appeals court can consider the constitutionality of Proposition 8.

If the state court eventually rules that the sponsors have standing, the case will then go back to the 9th Circuit for a decision on whether Walker correctly ruled that the measure violates the Constitution. The appeals court’s decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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