The California Supreme Court announced today that it will rule Thursday on whether state law allows the sponsors of Proposition 8 to appeal a federal court decision striking down the measure.
If the state high court advises allowing the appeal, the case will then go back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a future decision on the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage.
Proposition 8, enacted by state voters in 2008, amended the California Constitution to prohibit gay and lesbian marriage.
Last year, now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the measure, saying that it violates the federal constitutional rights of equal protection and due process.
The Proposition 8 sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, have sought to appeal that ruling to the federal circuit court.
But the appeal has been stalled over the procedural question of whether the sponsors have the legal standing, or right, to appeal in view of the fact that state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, have refused to do so.
In January, a 9th Circuit panel said that federal law, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1997 Arizona case, doesn’t appear grant standing to initiative sponsors in such circumstances.
The appeals court then asked the California Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion on whether state law provides such a right, in view of California’s strong tradition of voter initiatives.
At a hearing on the issue before the state court’s seven justices in September, the panel appeared to favor allowing the appeal. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye cited “the integrity of the initiative process.”
After the advisory opinion is issued, the case will go back to the 9th Circuit for a final determination on standing, and, if standing is granted, a decision on the constitutionality of Proposition 8.
The 9th Circuit’s eventual decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The California Supreme Court ruling will be issued at 10 a.m. Thursday at the court’s headquarters at the State Building in San Francisco and will also be available online on the California courts’ website at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/opinions.cgi.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News