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Standing on Solid Ground? Hearing Favorable for ProtectMarriage

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 09, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The California Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday to decide whether the official proponents of Proposition 8 have legal standing to defend the measure in the case now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Standing is a critical issue for Prop 8 because Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris refused to appeal retired-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 federal ruling striking down Prop 8. ProtectMarriage, the group that sponsored the 2008 ballot proposition, took up the cause of defending the controversial California measure.

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs' motion in the Proposition 8 lawsuit to vacate the stay of the decision overturning California's constitutional ban on gay marriage, thus keeping the ban in effect until the court issues its decision in the case. In January 2011, the federal court asked the California Supreme Court to review the legal standing issue. After considering the matter, the Supreme Court agreed to do so. As stated by the Ninth Circuit, the standing issue is as follows:

"Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the State's interest in the initiative's validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so."

During Tuesday's hearings, the California Supreme Court was responsive to ProtectMarriage's assertion that a private group can represent the state when state officials refuse to defend state laws. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye commented that citizen initiatives would be illusory if their sponsors were not allowed to defend the measures in the absence of state support.

The court will decide within 90 days if ProtectMarriage has legal standing to continue championing Prop 8.

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