EQCA, NCLR, and Lambda Legal File Amicus Brief in California Supreme Court in Proposition 8 Challenge

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Groups Argue that Proposition 8 Sponsors Do Not Speak for the State
May 4, 2011

(San Francisco, CA, May 4, 2011) - Yesterday, Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal filed 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 a federal court decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The brief explains that initiative proponents are unelected and have no right to act as representatives of the state. It also explains that regardless of how the California Supreme Court rules, the supporters of Proposition 8 have no "standing" to pursue an appeal in federal court because they are not harmed by allowing same-sex couples to marry and because their interests were limited to having the measure put to a vote.

"There is nothing in California's Constitution or statutes that provides proponents of initiatives any rights to defend those measures if they pass and are later challenged in court," said Jon Davidson, Legal Director of Lambda Legal. "At best, initiative proponents are like legislators who sponsor a bill, whom courts have repeatedly said are not entitled to appear in cases to defend the constitutionality of laws they drafted. To allow the proponents of Proposition 8 to represent the state would usurp the role of the attorney general, who is sworn to uphold the rights of all Californians, not just the 20 percent of state residents who voted in favor the initiative."

"California law does not permit the unelected proponents of a constitutional initiative to step into the state's shoes when elected officials appropriately decide not to appeal a decision striking down an unconstitutional measure," said Equality California Interim Executive Director Jim Carroll. "We are hopeful that the appeal will soon be dismissed, restoring marriage equality as soon as possible, and that same-sex couples and their families will once again be able to enjoy equality and dignity under the law."

NCLR legal director Shannon Minter explained, "Under the California Constitution, the state Attorney General must decide whether to appeal a federal court holding that a state law is unconstitutional, based on her conclusions about whether an appeal would be in the state's interest. Nothing in California law gives unelected initiative sponsors the power to make that decision on behalf of the entire state."

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker 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. The California Supreme Court said that it would consider the question on an expedited basis with oral arguments to be held as early as September.

Equality California is represented by Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC, and the Law Offices of David C. Codell.

Click here to read the amicus brief

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Contact Info

Contact: Lisa Hardaway; 212-809-8585 x 266; lhardaway@lambdalegal.org

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed more than 70 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.EQCA.org

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.

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