Once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of Proposition 8 had no standing, or legal authority, to appeal a trial court ruling that struck down the statewide ban on same-sex marriage, the responses — both pro and con — rolled in swiftly and, in some cases, furiously. Even as SF City officials made statements praising the ruling and scrambled to accomodate the flood of weddings expected in about a month, supporters of Proposition 8 announced their displeasure and vowed to continue to fight marriage equality.
The 5-4 ruling has the effect of reinstating a 2010 decision in which now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco ruled in favor of two couples who challenged the 2008 voter initiative in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Walker said in that ruling that Proposition 8 violated the federal constitutional rights to equal treatment and due process.
Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who were the original defendants in the couples’ lawsuit, had refused to appeal, and the high court said today the initiative’s sponsors, as a private group, didn’t have the right to step in to defend it.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to do so.
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“We decline to do so for the first time here,” Roberts wrote.
In another decision today, the court by a 5-4 vote struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited the U.S. government granting federal benefits and tax advantages to same-sex couples who were legally married in their state.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has said that in the event the high court dismissed the Proposition 8 appeal for lack of standing, he expected same-sex weddings in California to resume when the decision becomes final in about a month.
Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, whose office is responsible for recording all official documents including marriage licenses, said today that “I am proud that our staff is fully prepared and are eager to officially record these marriage licenses. I want to ensure a smooth and efficient process for everyone during this remarkable moment in history.”
“We can all rejoice together that inequality will not be tolerated under the law” Chu said, “and all couples who share a love for one another can marry without obstacle or discrimination.”
But there could be further litigation about the scope of Walker’s ruling.
Herrera and lawyers for the two couples say an injunction issued by Walker requires California officials to license and register same-sex marriages on a statewide basis.
The sponsors of Proposition 8 have said in court filings, however, that they think Walker’s injunction would only apply to the two individual couples who challenged Proposition 8.
Herrera said today, “My office is prepared to litigate immediately against any effort to limit or delay the restoration of marriage equality for all Californians.”
Herrera also said, “I’m grateful for a decision that finally ends marriage discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, and that strikes down a law that has no place in 21st century California.”
However, Andy Pugno, a lawyer for Protect Marriage, the Proposition 8 sponsors’ campaign committee, said the group will continue to try to enforce Proposition 8.
“While it is unfortunate that the Court’s ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court’s order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable,” Pugno said.
Pugno isn’t the only person disappointed by the Court’s decision: in a statement sent this morning, The Archdiocese of San Francisco quotes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone as saying “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so.”
The statement ends on a threatening note, saying “Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.”
SF District Attorney George Gascon, however, disagrees with Cordileone’s position. In a statement sent today, he said “Justice prevailed today and I am proud to stand with the majority of Americans who believe discrimination on any level is un-American.”
“While there is more work to do ensuring marriage equality” Gascon said, “for all 50 states, today we celebrate.”