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California high court hears arguments on standing in Proposition 8 case

The California Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday heard oral arguments [case backgrounder] on whether intervening advocacy groups can defend Proposition 8 [text; JURIST news archive] in court, in response to a certified question [order, PDF; JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. When Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the same-sex marriage ban [JURIST report] last year, then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former attorney general and current Governor Jerry Brown [official website], who were originally defendants in the lawsuit, refused to continue defending the measure on appeal [JURIST report], leaving defendant-intervenors Project Marriage [advocacy website] and other groups to defend the law.

Several media outlets interpreted the court as being in favor of granting standing. Lambda Legal [advocacy website], one of the plaintiffs, called the court's potential ruling impossible to predict [press release] and remained optimistic: "We continue to hope that the Court will ultimately decide that small groups of unelected individuals who are answerable to no one should not be able to act on behalf of the state."

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] in June rejected a motion by Proposition 8 supporters to vacate Walker's holding that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. In March, the Ninth Circuit denied a motion [JURIST report] filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris [official website] to lift the stay order [JURIST report] prohibiting gay couples from marrying while the appeal is pending. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments [video; JURIST report] in Perry v. Schwarzenegger [case materials] at the end of 2010. The hearing was divided into two one-hour sessions, with the first section focusing on the issue of standing, and the second focusing on Proposition 8's constitutionality.

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