The next stage in California’s Proposition 8 court case is set for September 6 when the Supreme Court of California will hear arguments on whether Prop. 8 supporters have legal standing under state law to appeal the overturning of California’s gay marriage ban.
Following federal Judge Vaughn Walker’s August 2010 ruling that California’s 2008 voter enacted ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, proponents quickly filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit. However, Vaughn Walker’s original ruling raised serious doubts as to whether Prop. 8 supporters, due to the particulars of how they came to defend the same-sex marriage ban, have the right to appeal.
Prop. 8 defenders, a coalition of so-called traditional marriage groups headed by Protect Marriage, were allowed to intervene in the original Proposition 8 trial when California’s then-attorney general and then-governor refused to defend the voter enacted gay marriage ban in court. This courtesy, however, did not grant Protect Marriage the automatic right to appeal.
The 9th Circuit agreed to take on this case on the provision that Prop. 8 supporters prove they have legal standing. However, in a move that seemed to indicate the 9th Circuit was in doubt as to whether Proposition 8 supporters have standing under federal law, the 9th Circuit in February punted the issue back to the California Supreme Court, asking the court to determine if there is any state law that would grant Prop. 8 supporters a right to appeal.
The Supreme Court took up the issue and has now announced it will hear oral arguments in September. From there the court will advise the 9th Circuit on whether Proposition 8 supporters have the right to appeal. If it is determined that state law does not provide supporters with such a right, it is expected the 9th Circuit will dismiss the appeal. A time frame for how long it will take for California’s supreme court to come back with that decision has not been given, though the expectation is they will return a decision before Christmas so as to allow the 9th Circuit to issue its decision early in 2012. This is, of course, only a tentative scale.
Even if it is determined that Proposition 8 proponents do not have legal standing to appeal in this particular case, a parallel suit has now been brought against Judge Vaughn Walker with Proposition 8 supporters charging that, because Walker was in a same-sex relationship at the time of the Proposition 8 trial, he stood to gain from the outcome of the trial and therefore his decision overturning California’s gay marriage ban should be invalidated.
Chief Judge James Ware, in a spiky June 14 decision, denied Proposition 8 supporters a motion to vacate the ruling, saying there was no evidence Vaughn Walker had ruled to overturn the ban so that he could specifically gain from the decision, and that a ruling vacating the decision on grounds of the judge’s sexuality would have wider implications for judges from other minority groups. Proposition 8 supporters on June 23 filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit.
As such, the Proposition 8 court case still seems destined for the United States Supreme Court.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to angela n.