Prop 8 Case Back in Federal Court After California Supreme Court Rules that State Law Grants Proponents Right to Appeal
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(San Francisco, November 17, 2011)—The California Supreme Court today ruled that the proponents of Proposition 8 have an adequate interest under California law to defend the constitutionality of such an initiative when public officials decline to appeal a judgment invalidating it. Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Legal Director Jon Davidson:
“While a disappointing ruling, this case is now back in federal court, where we expect a quick victory. The ruling addresses only a procedural legal question. The key question underlying this case is whether the U.S. Constitution permits a state electorate to treat one group of people unequally to everyone else by depriving them of what the state’s high court has held to be a fundamental right. A federal court has already ruled that it may not. We look forward to seeing that decision upheld so that same-sex couples in California may once again enjoy the freedom to marry.”
“Today’s ruling also does not settle the question as to whether Prop 8 proponents have standing in federal court. It remains up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide whether or not the U.S. Constitution allows initiative proponents to defend a challenge to the measure the proponents supported when elected state officials don't. We think the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that they don't.”
“In the end, the proponents of Prop 8 are just people with an opinion. That does not make them entitled to stand in for the government when they don’t agree with its decisions. We believe the U.S. Court of Appeals should rule that they lack standing under federal law and, if they don’t, that the full Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court should rule that initiative proponents are not entitled to take over the government’s role.”
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, now retired, ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional in August 2010, and the sponsors of Prop 8 sought to appeal that judgment to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On January 4, 2011, the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court for guidance on whether the sponsors of Prop 8 have legal standing to pursue the appeal under California law. Lambda Legal joined with Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights to file a friend-of-the court brief with the California Supreme Court arguing that the proponents of Proposition 8 have no power to override the decision of elected state officials about whether to appeal the federal court decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.
A ruling from the Ninth Circuit on the appeal of Judge Walker’s ruling is expected in early 2012.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.