Federal Court to Decide Fate of Proposition 8

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The Los Angeles Times reports the California Supreme Court issued a ruling that backers of Prop 8, the gay marriage ban, are entitled to defend them in court. Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris have refused to defend the proposition in court despite the legal challenge brought by supporters of gay marriage.

Here is a look at the most recent proceedings regarding Proposition 8's future.

California Supreme Court Ruling

The California Supreme Court was asked to rule on laws about legal challenges in the state from federal court. The U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals is hearing a case on the legality of Proposition 8 as to whether it is unconstitutional or not. The federal court is not bound by the ruling in California's Supreme Court, but rather asked it to clarify a particular point in the state's statutes.

The original measure was approved for the ballot in California in November 2008. ABC News reports the initiative passed 52 percent to 48 percent. Many statewide officials have opposed the ban on same-sex marriages and refused to defend it in court.

NPR reports that the court stated no one official on the state level has the right to invalidate a ballot measure simply by refusing to defend it in court. The move is seen as a victory for proponents of the original law.


Opponents of Proposition 8 argue that even though voters approved the measure, it violates the civil rights of gay couples who want to marry. The crux of this stance comes from heterosexual couples who are allowed to wed in California, but then Proposition 8 specifically bans gay couples from doing the same thing.


Many proponents of Proposition 8 have spent a lot of time and effort defending the law. ProtectMarriage.com and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) both have made statements regarding Prop 8.

ABC News reports NOM's president Brian Brown stated, "It is gratifying to know that the over 7 million Californians who supported the initiative will have a vigorous defense of their decision in our federal courts."

Future Litigation

The federal court system still has to rule on Proposition 8 as to whether or not it is unconstitutional. Even if named state officials in lawsuits refuse to defend the law, groups that supported the initial petition to voters now may have the right to step in on its behalf. Experts believe no matter what the appeals court rules, the losing side will appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. When and if there is a Supreme Court ruling, it will have ramifications on such bans in all 50 states and not just California.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics. Born in St. Louis, Browning is active in local politics and served as a campaign volunteer for President Barack Obama and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

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