gay_cityhall_gavel.jpgSupporters of California’s ban on same-sex marriage told the U.S. Supreme Court today that defining marriage is a states’ rights matter and that Californians’ choice of a traditional definition in 2008 should be honored.

“The definition of marriage has always been understood to be the virtually exclusive province of the states,” the sponsors of Proposition 8 wrote in a brief submitted to the high court.

“And we submit that countless Californians of good will have opted in good faith to preserve the traditional definition of marriage because they believe it continues to meaningfully serve important societal interests,” the sponsors said.

Proposition 8, enacted by 52 percent of voters in November 2008, amended the state Constitution to provide that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The initiative’s sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in San Francisco last year that the measure violated the federal Constitution.

The appeals court said that because same-sex marriage was legal in California for several months in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed, it was unconstitutional for the measure to withdraw that right for no reason other than animosity toward homosexuals.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the appeal on March 26 and is due to issue a decision by the end of June.

The sponsors outlined their claims in an opening brief filed today.

Two couples who challenged Proposition 8 in a civil rights lawsuit and the city of San Francisco have a Feb. 21 deadline for filing a response. The sponsors have until March 19 to submit a reply.

The 9th Circuit ruling has been put on hold and Proposition 8 has remained in effect until the high court rules.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gay and lesbian marriage while 41 others have prohibited it through laws or state constitutional amendments.

The Proposition 8 supporters’ brief says the nation is currently engaged in a “great debate” and that the high court “should allow the public debate regarding marriage to continue through the democratic process, both in California and throughout the nation.”

The filing contends the purpose of the initiative was not to dishonor gays and lesbians.

Instead, the sponsors say, it was reasonable for California voters to believe that restricting marriage to male-female unions will “increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by their own mothers and fathers.”

In another section of the brief, the sponsors, answering a question posed by the Supreme Court, argue they had the legal authority to step in to defend the measure in court after Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to do so.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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