Prop. 8 ruling likely to persuade federal courts, experts say
Legal experts said the California Supreme Court's ruling Thursday giving Proposition 8 sponsors the right to defend the anti-same-sex-marriage initiative was so strong that it would likely persuade a federal appeals court and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It's a gangbusters opinion," said Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, an expert on the state high court. "This makes such a strong case that the sponsors represent the state and can represent the state's interests that it pretty much seals the deal.”
UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky agreed. He said the U.S. Supreme Court could rule on the case no earlier than 2013.
Although gay-rights groups opposed standing, or legal authority, for ProtectMarriage, sponsor of Proposition 8, the ultimate victor in the dispute will not be known until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, Chemerinsky said.
"If the Supreme Court uses this as the vehicle for holding that there is a right to marriage equality for gays and lesbians, then what the California Supreme Court did today will turn out to be a huge victory for gays and lesbians," he said.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of Proposition 8 and other ballot measures are entitled to defend them in court when the state refuses to do so, a ruling likely to spur federal courts to decide the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage.
In its unanimous ruling Thursday, the state high court stressed that the ruling had nothing to do with gay marriage.
"The resolution of this procedural question does not turn on the substance of the particular initiative measure at issue, but rather on the purpose and integrity of the initiative process itself," Chief Justice Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering an appeal of a trial judge's ruling that overturned Proposition 8, had asked the California high court to clarify whether state law gives initiative sponsors standing to defend their measures.
-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco