The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week announced that oral arguments in the Proposition 8 same-sex marriage case will be heard December 6.
The hearing for the Proposition 8 appeal will be divided into two hour-long sessions. In the first, the court will examine whether the defendant-interveneros have standing to appeal Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that overturned Proposition 8 in August. In the second hour, the court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 itself.
Further information on how this time will be divided from The Sacramento Bee:
During the first hour, attorneys for the proponents of Proposition 8 and Imperial County will have 15 minutes each to state their arguments on the matter of legal standing. Then attorneys for the plaintiffs in the federal challenge – who are two gay couples – will have 30 minutes to respond.
In the second hour, the parties will offer their arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The proponents of the measure will start with 30 minutes to argue that Proposition 8 is constitutional. Then the court will give 15 minutes for the plaintiffs and 15 minutes to the county of San Francisco, which joined the plaintiffs in the original challenge that was tried before Walker.
The Issue of Standing in the Proposition 8 Court Case
Upon issuing his ruling, Judge Vaughn Walker raised the concern of whether the defendant-intervenors in this case, headed by the group Protect Marriage, have legal standing enough to defend Proposition 8 before the 9th Circuit.
The state’s administration would usually defend such cases, but the anti-gay marriage group intervened when both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, as the attorney general, declined to intervene because they believed the 2008 ballot measure which defined away the right to equal access to marriage for same-sex couples, was unconstitutional.
Although Protect Marriage was allowed to intervene during the original trial, as defendant-intervenors the right to defend the law at appeal is not automatically granted them.
In accepting the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the defendant-intervenors would have to prove their standing in order for the appeal to go ahead. Representatives from Imperial County have also attempted to intervene in the suit and likewise will have to prove their standing in order to defend the same-sex marriage ban.
You can read more on the issue of standing here.
The Constitutionality of Proposition 8
After Judge Vaughn Walker issued his ruling, he was immediately branded as biased by anti-gay marriage groups who said that, from the very start of the case, he had clearly favored the plaintiffs, and that his findings of fact were therefore flawed. They labeled Walker a radical judge who was attempting to legislate from the bench and undermine the will of the people.
In their appeal, Protect Marriage charged Walker with having ignored their arguments on how marriage has traditionally been defined as a union between heterosexual couples, and that he failed to give proper weight to their contention that even the possibility of the institution of marriage being undermined by widening its definition to include same-sex couples, is interest enough for the court to uphold the voter enacted initiative as a viable revision to California’s constitution.
However, many praised Judge Walker’s ruling for its thorough analysis while also charging that the defendant-intervenors put up, at best, a lackluster defense.
In documents filed with the 9th Circuit, lawyers for the plaintiffs countered that Judge Walker’s validation of their complaint was constitutionally sound and pointed to what they saw as the clear fact that same-sex couples having equal access to marriage should never have been put to a popular vote because voting on minority rights is inherently flawed.
They also advanced that the case had demonstrated that the voter enacted initiative was bolstered by trading on anti-gay animus – and therein harmed the plaintiffs – and in no way served to protect marriage, as the defendant-intervenors had calimed, because there was no proven nor definable threat in allowing same-sex couples to make such a commitment.
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