SAN FRANCISCO (BP) — A California Supreme Court case regarding Proposition 8 will continue into August after the court refused to grant a stay Monday (July 15) as it considers whether the state’s county clerks are legally issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“This has become more than just a fight over marriage,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, Proposition 8’s official proponents, said. “The authority of local government officials, and the future of the initiative process itself, is put at grave risk if state officials are allowed to nullify a proposition by executive order, backed by no binding legal precedent.
“Now it is up to California’s highest court to breathe life back into the people’s power of initiative,” Pugno said, referring in part to the 7 million California voters who approved Proposition 8 as a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
ProtectMarriage.com, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a petition with the California Supreme Court July 12 asking the court to enforce Proposition 8, which has not been struck down by a qualified court despite publicity surrounding a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
“Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state’s marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later, the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for ADF, said.
“We remain hopeful that the court will recognize that Proposition 8 remains the law of the land in California and that county clerks must continue to enforce it,” Nimocks said in a July 15 news release.
Kellie Fiedorek, ADF’s litigation counsel, wrote in a blog post Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to defend the amendment in federal court did not impact the validity of the marriage law.
“The only direct effect that the Court’s decision has on marriage in California is to permit the four plaintiffs in that case, and them alone, to seek and receive marriage licenses,” Fiedorek wrote. “The district court’s ruling extends no further than to these four individuals.”
ADF’s lawsuit contends that at least 56 of 58 county clerks must continue to follow Proposition 8 because they were not involved in the recent case against it.
“It is simply not true that one unelected district court judge has overturned this voter-approved ballot initiative,” Fiedorek wrote.
When the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Proposition 8, no legal precedent was left declaring the amendment unconstitutional statewide, ProtectMarriage.com said.
“California’s constitution requires public officials to enforce any voter-passed initiative until an appellate court declares it to be unconstitutional statewide,” ProtectMarriage.com said.
Pugno compared the current case to former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to order the county clerk to disregard the man-woman legal definition of marriage. In this case, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered county clerks statewide to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Mayor Newsom had no authority to instruct the county clerk to defy state law, and today we contend that the governor and attorney general don’t have that authority either,” Pugno said.
“With so much at stake,” ADF’s Fiedorek wrote, “we owe the citizens of California — and future generations of Americans — nothing less than every ounce of our efforts to seek justice in this matter.”
The state Supreme Court has given both sides until early August to file all their legal arguments.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).