The attorneys representing two gay couples challenging California's marriage equality ban said they were optimistic about their case moving forward after California's top court declared that their opposition can legally defend Proposition 8 in court.
The group ProtectMarriage.com has taken on defending its ballot initiative, Proposition 8, after successive governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown as well as attorney general Kamala Harris refused to defend the law. Before the case would move any further through the federal court system, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit requested that the California Supreme Court decide whether the backers of Proposition 8 had the legal standing to step in.
Ted Olson, one of the two attorneys arguing against Proposition 8, told reporters shortly after the decision was released that a ruling from the Ninth Circuit on the merits of the case itself, Perry v. Brown, could come at any moment. Both sides have already submitted arguments to the court, but the issue of standing was impeding the case from going forward. Now the court could request more oral arguments or could issue a decision with little notification. Still, Olson said, it is imperative that this case keep moving forward.
He said, from the beginning, "We have made the the point that constitutional rights are being violated every day, and every minute of every day, for thousands and thousands of couples in California." He added that it was hurtful to those couples and "intolerable for that violation to the Constitution to go on."
Co-counselor David Boies said that since the case was filed in 2009, several major events have caused the public to take a more positive view of gay rights and marriage equality, including the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and New York State's enactment of marriage rights for gay couples.
Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind Perry v. Brown, said changing public opinion is helping the group's case.
"Since the initial victory of this case ... there have been seven national independent polls, all which have been commissioned by news organizations, that for the first time show that a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry," he said Thursday.
Olson added that President Barack Obama deeming the Defense of Marriage Act indefensible by the Department of Justice has been a boost to their case.
"I think everyone who has watched this issue has noticed that the American public are making up their minds that discrimination to prevent individuals from getting married is unconstitutional and reprehensible," Olson said. "This kind of discrimination is going to be unlawful, and hopefully soon."
Olson said, however, that as the case continues, the issue of standing may come back into question from higher courts, such as the U.S. Supreme Court. On the state level, the court's ruling indicates that sponsors of ballot initiatives may be fit to represent their propositions in court when California's governor and state attorney general refuse to do so in future cases.