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Supreme Court: Prop 8 Supporters Have No Standing to Sue

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

In an emotional ruling for Californians on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Proposition 8 proponents for lack of standing, clearing the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry held that the concerned activists who stepped in to defend Prop 8 when state officials declined to do so did not have legal authority to bring the case, reports The Huffington Post.

While some say this ruling was decided on a technicality, it has real practical consequences for Californians who want to marry.

No Article III Standing

In Perry, the Supreme Court held that the proponents of Prop 8 had no cognizable interest or injury to bring the case.

To have standing in an Article III (federal) court, a petitioner has to present some actual harm or injury that the court can remedy; hurt feelings and general disagreements "[are] insufficient by [themselves] to meet Art. III's requirements."

The proponents of Prop 8 had no injury or harm to present to the 9th Circuit when they appealed Judge Vaughn Walker's district court decision, the Court found. And the Supreme Court does not allow "generalized grievance[s]" or wishes to vindicate the validity of a law to suffice for actual injury.

Can't Step In for the State

The Supreme Court also rejected an argument that the Prop 8 proponents could step in to defend state voter initiatives in court when state officials refuse to.

The 9th Circuit had asked the California Supreme Court to decide this issue when it was considering the Perry case, and the California Supreme Court had certified that the proponents had Article III standing to assert the state's interests.

Too bad it isn't up to the California Supreme Court to dole out what Chief Justice Roberts calls "ticket[s] to the federal courthouse." Roberts added that states cannot designate private parties as state agents, even if they were previously legislators.

Effect on Gay Marriage in California

After the ruling, California Attorney General Kamala Harris asserted that same-sex marriages in the state would resume "as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay on the District Court ruling. I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift this stay immediately," she said in a statement.

The 9th Circuit, however, said that will not happen until the final Supreme Court ruling is received in 25 days, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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