Court Rejects One Challenge to Gay Marriage Ruling, Passes on Another

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected one challenge to a federal judge’s ruling that declared California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, and the three-judge panel decided to ask the California Supreme Court to consider the legitimacy of a separate challenge to the historic ruling.

The appeals court rejected a motion to intervene on behalf of Proposition 8 proponents filed by clerks from California’s Imperial County. The county clerks are involved in issuing marriage license, but the appeals court ruled the clerks do not have the authority to intervene.

The primary challenge to Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker’s August 4 ruling that declared the gay marriage ban unconstitutional comes from Proposition 8’s proponents, who petitioned to appeal Walker’s decision in September after state officials failed to defend the ban.

Instead of ruling on Proposition 8 itself, the Ninth District Court of Appeals is asking the California Supreme Court to decide if the Proposition 8 proponents can legally appeal the August 4 ruling.

The Proposition 8 proponents, who originally campaigned for the ban, argue that they have the authority to defend the law they sponsored as a ballot initiative. The ban was approved by a slim majority of California voters in 2008.

If the California Supreme Court decides that the proponents can appeal, the constitutional questions surrounding Proposition 8 will likely be argued in the Ninth Circuit and then the US Supreme Court.