Originally published on Advocate.com February 16 2011 5:15 PM ET
The California supreme court Wednesday announced it would hear
arguments as to whether marriage-equality opponents have standing to defend Proposition 8 in court when state officials refused to do so.
The court's move will further delay ultimate resolution of the case, now on appeal before the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit.
The state supreme court granted an expedited schedule in the matter, however — one established to accommodate oral arguments before the justices as early as September; briefings from the litigants are due in March and April per the court's order. Following oral arguments, justices have 90 days to issue an opinion.
Last month a three-judge panel for the ninth circuit asked the California supreme court whether Prop. 8 supporters who have defended the ballot initiative in the federal case Perry v. Schwarzenegger "possess either a
particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority
to assert the State's interest in the initiative's validity ...
when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so."
Gay legal groups immediately called upon the state supreme court to deny legal standing in the appeal to ProtectMarriage.com.
"[Anti-gay marriage groups] are not law enforcers and have the same limited rights as everyone else to litigate only when their own rights are at stake, not merely to assert their opinions about others' rights," said Lambda Legal marriage project director Jennifer C. Pizer in a statement.
National Center for Lesbian Rights executive director Kate Kendell said the court "should act quickly to confirm that California’s elected officials, not private groups or interested individuals, represent the state’s interests in court."
Update: Chad Griffin, board president for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization that has funded and organized the federal challenge to Prop. 8, issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
"More than six months ago, the federal district court declared unequivocally that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional and that it causes grave harm to gay and lesbian couples and their families each day that it is in effect. We look forward to assisting the California Supreme Court reach an answer to the question before them as soon as possible so that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can affirm the district court's ruling and end the state-sanctioned discrimination of Prop. 8. We are hopeful that the California Supreme Court will also consider further expediting this matter so that it could be argued before the summer.
"The American Foundation for Equal Rights is committed to achieving the freedom to marry for all Americans. We look forward to taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which 14 times before has declared that marriage is a fundamental right for every American."
The court's order, in full:
Request for certification granted:
The request, pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide a question of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is granted. For the purposes of briefing and oral argument, defendant-intervenors Dennis Hollingsworth, Gail J. Knight, Martin F. Gutierrez, Mark A. Jansson, and ProtectMarriage.com (collectively "Proponents") are deemed the petitioners in this court. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.520(a)(6).) In order to facilitate expedited consideration and resolution of the issues presented, and to accommodate oral argument in this matter as early as September, 2011, the normal briefing schedule is shortened, pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.68, as follows: The opening brief on the merits is to be served and filed on or before Monday, March 14, 2011. The answer brief on the merits is to be served and filed on or before Monday, April 4. A reply brief may be served and filed on or before Monday, April 18. Any person or entity wishing to file an amicus curiae brief must file an application for permission to file such brief, accompanied by the proposed brief, on or before Monday, May 2, 2011. Any party may serve and file an omnibus reply to any or all amicus curiae briefs on or before Monday, May 9, 2011. The court does not contemplate any extension of the above deadlines. Votes: Cantil-Sakauye, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno, and Corrigan, JJ.