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Politics

California High Court Rules Backers Can Defend Same-Sex Marriage Measure

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Prop 8, same-sex marriage, gay, lesbian

A same sex couple Alden Lougee (L) and Rex Resa (R) kiss in front of Prop 8 supporters outside of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 6, 2010 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in San Francisco Thursday that the sponsors of Proposition 8 have the right under state law to appeal a federal court decision that struck down the law.

The case now goes back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a future decision on whether the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal Constitution.

Thursday’s ruling provides an advisory opinion requested by the federal appeals court earlier this year.

Download the full ruling (.pdf)

The sponsors of the 2008 ballot initiative are seeking to appeal a decision in which now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the measure, saying that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

But in January, the federal appeals court said that U.S. law as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t appear to allow such an appeal when state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, have refused to defend the measure.

The federal court then asked the state high court to advise whether state law provides such a right.

In Thursday’s ruling, the California court said there is such a right and that “the purpose and integrity of the initiative process” set forth in the state Constitution are at stake.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote, “It is essential to the integrity of the initiative process … that there be someone to assert the state’s interest in an initiative’s validity on behalf of the public when the public officials who normally assert that interest decline to do so.”

Cantil-Sakauye emphasized that the court was not ruling on the validity of Proposition 8 itself, but rather on a procedural matter that affects all initiatives enacted by California voters.

Both sides in the same-sex marriage debate viewed the ruling as a positive development.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“It really is a huge disaster for the homosexual marriage extremists,” said Andy Pugno, the attorney who authored Prop 8 and then defended it in court.

“They wanted to essentially be able to have a lawsuit to invalidate the people’s vote for Prop 8 and win by default with no defense on the other side.”

Plaintiff Kris Perry of Berkeley said the ruling was a relief in that it would allow an already protracted case to finally move forward.

“It really allows us to get the case back on the fast track. We’ve been anxious to have the 9th Circuit take the case up again. We’ve waited more than a year for the appeal to reach its conclusion,” she said.

“Without this ruling, we couldn’t move forward so for that, we are grateful.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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