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September 6, 2011 Print

California Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Prop. 8 Standing

by Karla Dial

Marriage advocates were optimistic Tuesday that the California Supreme Court would affirm their legal standing to defend the Golden State’s law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman while the state itself refuses to do so.

In 2008, California voters approved Prop. 8, a ballot initiative defining marriage. But when a federal judge in San Francisco ruled the law unconstitutional in 2010, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration declined to defend it.

In his stead, ProtectMarriage.com — the group that put the initiative on the ballot three years ago — has been seeking the right to argue for it when the case is heard on its merits at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Essentially the court made it clear that in its history it has been liberally discretionary in terms of allowing proponents to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the state’s attorney general.  And now especially in the absence of the state’s attorney general there would be no other group available to defend the will of the people and its constitution,” said California Family Council Executive Director Ron Prentice, who attended the hearing as a member of ProtectMarriage.com.

“We expect that the California Supreme Court will give us a good decision regarding legal standing for the proponents to defend Prop 8. We’re glad that that will be the message sent along to the Ninth Circuit as they continue their consideration.”

Conservative watchdogs had been apprehensive heading into the hearing since last week, when Justice Goodwin Liu was confirmed to one of the court’s seven seats. Republicans in Congress blocked Liu from joining the 9th Circuit earlier this year, citing his liberal views on same-sex marriage and abortion. Today’s hearing was his first as a member of the California Supreme Court.

Yet Liu gave no indication he wouldn’t grant ProtectMarriage.com the legal standing it seeks.

“Common-sensically, isn’t it the case that they are the ones who most clearly invested in the success of the proposition and thus are distinguishable from any other voter?” he asked during the proceedings.

Justice Ming Chin concurred, saying that in the absence of the state, advocates’ right to defend the law seems fairly obvious.

“When you have one side not represented it seems to me that the right is illusory,” he said.

A Public Opinion Survey completed earlier this year shows 62 percent of Americans believe marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. Access the complete survey.

A Yale University study shows children do best when raised by their married biological parents, and that most Americans agree with policies that promote that type of family. Read the entire report.