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Kenneth Starr to defend gay marriage ban before state Supreme Court

December 19, 2008 |  3:07 pm

Kenneth Starr

Kenneth W. Starr, the former U.S. Solicitor General who led the inquiry into President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica L. Lewinsky, will argue the case in favor of upholding a ban on gay marriage before the California Supreme Court.

Starr was today named lead counsel for the official proponents of Proposition 8. This afternoon, the group filed court briefs defending the legality of the proposition, which was approved by 52% of California voters last month throwing into question thousands of marriages performed during the five months the practice was legal in the state.

The briefs are in response to a spate of legal challenges filed by gay rights advocates, including the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Opponents of the proposition argued that it amounted to a constitutional revision instead of a more limited amendment.

A revision of the state constitution can only go before voters after a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a constitutional convention. Proposition 8 was put on the ballot after a signature drive. The case poses a series of provocative legal challenges.

The first among them is that California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who opposed Proposition 8 but is legally bound to defend the state’s laws, must now weigh in on the challenge. Brown has in recent days been called upon to declare it a revision. In the past, he has said he plans to “defend the proposition as enacted by the people of California.”

But he has also said he believes that the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages performed between June and November should remain valid.

Because it did not trust Brown to mount a staunch defense of the proposition, the group Protect Marriage intervened in the case and filed its own brief. It argues that the same-sex marriages are no longer valid. Brown’s briefs are due later today.

The court could hear oral arguments as soon as March.

-- Jessica Garrison

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times