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November 17, 2011 Print

Prop. 8 Backers Can Defend Law in Federal Court

by Karla Dial

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that the Alliance Defense Fund and the ProtectMarriage.com legal team may continue defending the state’s marriage-definition law in federal court.

Since Prop. 8, the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,  passed in California in 2008, the state attorney general’s office has refused to defend it in court. Consequently, ProtectMarriage.com — the coalition of ministries and family groups that helped put the proposition on the ballot three years ago — have been defending it from challenges claiming it’s unconstitutional.

“Because it is essential to the integrity of the initiative process,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, “that there be someone to assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity on behalf of the people when the public officials who normally assert that interest decline to do so, and because the official proponents of an initiative … are the most obvious and logical persons to assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity on behalf of the voters who enacted the measure, we conclude that California law authorize the official proponents, under such circumstances, to appear in the proceeding to assert the state’s interest in the initiatives validity and to appeal a judgment invaliding the measure.

“Neither the Governor, the Attorney General, nor any other executive or legislative official has the authority to veto or invalidate an initiative measure that has been approved by the voters.”

The Alliance Defense Fund applauded the ruling.

“The court was clearly right to conclude that the California marriage amendment should not go undefended just because state officials have refused to defend it,” ADF Senior Counsel Brian Raum said. “Because the people of California have a right to be defended, Prop. 8’s official proponents will be allowed to continue defending the marriage amendment. Otherwise, state officials would have succeeded in indirectly invalidating a measure that they had no power to strike down directly.”

Under the ruling, the case regarding the constitutional merits of Prop. 8 may now continue at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gay activists who sought to have the law overturned challenged ProtectMarriage.com’s legal right to defend it there in January.

Prop. 8 went on the ballot after judges unilaterally declared same-sex marriage legal in California.

Read the California Supreme Court ruling.