June 26, 2013 Print

U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses California’s Prop 8 Case

by Kim Trobee


The Supreme Court ruling on California’s marriage amendment, known as Prop 8, is complicated and will likely take days — or longer — to unravel.

The amendment defines marriage in the state Constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

Ryan T. Anderson, a Heritage Foundation scholar, has been following the case.

“In its ruling on California’s Proposition 8,” he said, “the Court declared that the citizen group that sponsored Prop 8 did not have standing to defend the constitutional amendment that millions of Californians voted to pass. The only reason this jurisdiction question was an issue is because the governor and attorney general of the state of California decided to not defend a law passed by the people of that state.

“While the government of California through its inaction has tried to silence the voices of Californians, the Court has not created a right to the redefinition of marriage. Marriage laws in the states that tell the truth about marriage — that it is a union of one man and one woman to provide children with a mom and a dad — have not been struck down.”

As a result, the Supreme Court justices say the appeal to the 9th Circuit, which ruled against Prop 8, is void, in their opinion, saying the appeal never should have been allowed. That means it’s as if it never happened. So, the lower court decision, made by retired federal Judge Vaughan Walker, is the only valid decision in the lawsuit.  The question now is whether Walker’s decision applies to all of California, or only to the two same-sex couples who brought the suit.

Attorneys who favor marriage say it only applies to those couples, leaving Proposition 8 still in effect for everyone else in the state. That assertion is sure to be challenged in court.

ProtectMarriage attorney Andy Pugno called at least part of the decision a great victory.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ misguided decision that sought to invalidate Proposition 8,” he said.  “For the more than 7 million Californians who have seen their vote stripped away from them, little by little, over the course of five years, that decision is gratifying.

“While it is unfortunate that the Court’s ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court’s order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable.”

Christian conservative leaders around the country watched the analysis of the rulings with great interest. Ryan McCann of the Indiana Family Institute said his state is working to enact a marriage amendment and today’s decision highlights the importance of elections.

“The state attorney general becomes a lot more important,” he said.  “So it gives some of those state office holders much more power when that happens.  It will end up being state legislators who define marriage in the states.”

Reports on the court rulings in the mainstream media were misleading at best. California Gov. Jerry Brown announced that clerks must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, worked on the legal team in the Prop 8 case and said the matter is far from settled.

“Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the debate over marriage has only just begun,” he said.  “The court’s decision does not silence the voices of Americans. Marriage–the union of husband and wife — will remain timeless, universal, and special, particularly because children need mothers and fathers. This has been the experience of diverse cultures and faiths throughout history, including the American experience, and that will not change.”

Read “U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Federal Marriage Law.”

Read the Supreme Court’s decision in the Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry.