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Proposition 8 backers say ruling overturning gay marriage ban may apply to only 2 couples

September 18, 2010 | 12:01 am

If backers of Proposition 8 are not permitted to appeal a federal judge's ruling overturning the measure, the effect of that ruling must be limited to the two same-sex couples who brought the challenge, sponsors of Proposition 8 argued Friday.

In written arguments before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the sponsors, called protectmarriage.com, insisted they had legal authority to appeal last month's ruling even though the gay couples sued the state, not the proponents.

But protectmarriage.com said the court need not even reach a decision on whether it can appeal.

It argued that the appeal can by lodged by Imperial County, which has been trying to intervene in the case against Proposition 8. Imperial County voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 8 and is being represented by a Christian group aligned with protectmarriage.

In finding Proposition 8 unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker refused to permit Imperial County to participate in the case and said he doubted that protectmarriage.com had standing to appeal. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the named defendants, have declined to appeal.

If the 9th Circuit decides that neither the sponsors nor Imperial County have standing, Walker's decision should affect only the couples who sued because the lawsuit was not brought on behalf of all gay couples in the state, protectmarriage.com argued.

If the ruling were limited, only the two couples could marry. Other same-sex couples in California would continue to be barred from marrying.

A 9th Circuit panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on the arguments in December. Until then, the court has decided that Walker's ruling should not be enforced.

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco