U.S. Supreme Court Clears Way for More Wrangling in State over Gay Marriage

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Some folks never say die when it comes to killing the civil rights of other people.

Despite two U.S. Supreme Court decisions Wednesday affirming that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits and can marry in California, supporters of Proposition 8 have not given up the fight.

“We shall fight in the Legislature, fight in the courts and we will not surrender,” Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute and anti-gay marriage activist, told Fox 5 San Diego. They might have a few days to marshal their forces because there still seems to be some question how quickly the high court’s ruling on Prop. 8 will take effect.

The court was direct in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and its prohibition of federal benefits for same-sex couples. “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

But the court used a technicality to avoid ruling on Prop. 8. The justices decided that the defenders of the proposition lacked standing to be in court because they were just supporters, not the requisite government officials, leaving in place a trial court ruling in favor of gay marriage.      

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

In the process, the court said the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals incorrectly affirmed the trial court’s ruling and it, too, should have kicked the case back for a lack of standing. That comment encouraged Prop. 8 proponent Andy Pugno to claim victory. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ misguided decision that sought to invalidate Proposition 8,” he wrote in a press release.

That delusional enthusiasm and a belief on the part of some proponents that the trial judge’s original decision only applies to Los Angeles and Alameda counties is almost certain to result in more legal challenges to gay marriage in California.

High court rulings usually take around 25 days to go into effect, but the state might not wait. California Attorney General Kamala Harris called for the appellate court to immediately lift the stay it placed on the original ruling during the appeals process and let the weddings begin. Governor Jerry Brown ordered all counties to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the stay is lifted.       

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage with Two Major Rulings (by Adam Liptak, New York Times)

High Court Allows California Gay Marriage, Voids U.S. Law (by Greg Stohr, Bloomberg)

Prop. 8: Supreme Court Ends California Ban on Gay Marriage but Fight Remains (by Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News)

Kamala Harris Calls for Same-Sex Marriages to Resume “Immediately” (by Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times)

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