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State justices to rule on Prop. 8 backers' legal standing

Photo: Darren Shippen (left) and Anthony Martinez (right) hug at Sasscer Park in Santa Ana August 4, 2010. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

The California Supreme Court has announced it will issue a written opinion Thursday on whether conservatives who sponsored Proposition 8 are entitled to defend the measure that overturned a 2008 ruling recognizing the right to same-sex marriage

The court's ruling, which will be made public at 10 a.m., will determine whether all initiative sponsors in California are legally entitled to defend their measures in state court when the governor and the attorney general refuse.

If the court rules against the initiative backers, then a federal appeals court is more likely to rule that ProtectMarriage.com, the sponsor of Proposition 8, also lacks standing under federal law.

Gay rights groups want the state high court to deny standing to the initiative's sponsors. That could avoid a constitutional showdown on Proposition 8 that gays might lose before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The League of Women Voters has urged the California court to deny standing to initiative sponsors, as has Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris.

But several other groups have called on the court to protect the initiative process by ensuring that elected officials cannot override the will of the voters.

Proposition 8’s fate is in the hands of the federal courts, which must decide whether ProtectMarriage was legally entitled to appeal the order overturning the measure. California's then governor and attorney general refused to appeal or defend the measure.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether state law gives initiative backers special status to defend measures in court, but the appeals court won't be bound by what the California court determines.

[For the Record, 4:45 p.m., Nov. 16: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that the California Supreme Court will decide whether sponsors of Prop. 8 are entitled to defend the measure that overturned the 2008 same-sex marriage ban. Prop. 8 overturned court ruling recognizing the right to same-sex marriage.]

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-- Maura Dolan

Photo: Darren Shippen, left, and Anthony Martinez hug at Sasscer Park in Santa Ana on Aug. 4, 2010. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

 
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