3:20 PM: The California Supreme Court today turned down a request by the backers of Proposition 8 for an immediate halt to same-sex marriages in the state.
The court, in a brief order issued in San Francisco, denied a stay request made in a lawsuit filed Friday by the sponsors of the 2008 voter initiative banning gay marriage in California.
The order, signed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, did not give the court’s reasoning.
Another part of the lawsuit by the sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, remains pending before the court.
In that section of the lawsuit, Proposition 8 sponsors are seeking a hearing before the court and a long-term order blocking gay marriages.
The state high court previously set a briefing schedule on that part of the lawsuit that will end on Aug. 1, after which the panel will decide whether to grant a hearing to the Proposition 8 sponsors.
The sponsors claim the initiative, enacted by voters as a state constitutional amendment, remains in effect for at least 56 of 58 county clerks despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month dismissing the sponsors’ appeal of a lower federal court ruling striking down Proposition 8.
Gay and lesbian nuptials resumed on June 28, two days after the Supreme Court ruling, when a federal appeals court lifted a stay of an injunction in which U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco blocked enforcement of Proposition 8.
Gov. Jerry Brown, acting on advice from Attorney General Kamala Harris, ordered county clerks to resume issuing licenses to same-sex couples statewide.
The 2010 injunction prohibits the California governor, attorney general, public health director and registrar “and all persons under their control or supervision” from enforcing Proposition 8.
The sponsors say the injunction doesn’t apply to county clerks, while Brown and Harris say that it does because county clerks and recorders are controlled by the state officers in licensing and registering marriages.
The state officials also argue that any further litigation should be pursued in the federal rather than state court system.
The Proposition 8 sponsors contend that because the U.S. Supreme Court ruling left no appellate court decision in place, Walker’s injunction should apply only to the two couples who filed a 2009 lawsuit challenging Proposition 8.
Those couples—Kris Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank—were married on June 28, within hours after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay of the injunction.
In the remaining part of the lawsuit, the state high court has the options of either denying a hearing, or granting a hearing and then issuing a ruling at later date on the sponsors’ claims. If a hearing is granted, it would normally take the court at least several months to hold a hearing and then issue a ruling.
Austin Nimrocks, a lawyer for the sponsors, said, “Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state’s marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later, the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law.
“We remain hopeful that the court will recognize that Proposition 8 remains the law of the land in California and that county clerks must continue to enforce it,” said Nimrocks, who works with Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom.
A spokesman for Harris said she would have no comment other than a tweet in which she announced the court had denied a stay.
The current lawsuit is the sponsors’ second attempt to halt gay and lesbian weddings. On June 29, they filed an emergency petition for a stay with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, which Kennedy denied the next day.
Same-sex weddings were previously legal in California for several months in 2008 before Proposition 8 was enacted in November of that year.
1:58 PM: The sponsors of California’s Proposition 8 reiterated their plea to the state Supreme Court this morning for a stay that would block gay and lesbian weddings in the state.
In a brief filed with the court in San Francisco, the sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, argue that their claim that county clerks are not bound by a federal injunction blocking Proposition 8 from being enforced is “a pure question of state law.”
Therefore, the sponsors contend, it is appropriate for the state high court justices to take up a lawsuit they filed Friday and to issue an immediate stay while the court considers the case.
Proposition 8, approved by voters in 2008, amended the California Constitution to ban gay and lesbian marriages in the state.
A federal trial judge’s 2010 injunction preventing enforcement of the measure was left in place on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the sponsors’ appeal.
Gay and lesbian weddings resumed two days later, after a federal appeals court lifted a stay of the injunction, and Gov. Jerry Brown, acting on the advice of Attorney General Kamala Harris, ordered the state’s 58 county clerks to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
The sponsors’ bid to the California Supreme Court is their second attempt to halt the nuptials. On June 29, they filed an emergency petition for a stay with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, which Kennedy denied the next day.
Today’s brief was the group’s final response to an opposition filing by Brown and Harris in the state high court Friday night.
The two state officials argued that the federal injunction overrides state law and that any further litigation should be pursued in federal rather than state courts.
The injunction by now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco prohibits the California governor, attorney general, public health director and registrar “and all persons under their control or supervision” from enforcing Proposition 8.
In an advice letter to Brown in early June, Harris said the injunction applies statewide because county clerks and recorders are supervised and controlled by the state officials for purposes of issuing and registering marriage licenses.
The Proposition 8 sponsors contend in their lawsuit that “no express legal authority gives a state official authority over county clerks when issuing marriage licenses.”
The state Supreme Court justices have no deadline for ruling on the stay request.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News