We need better apologies »« DOMA ruled unconstitutional

Proposition 8 appeal dismissed on standing grounds

[UPDATE: California will start issuing new marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the legal paperwork to lift the injunction is completed.]

In the other same-sex marriage case Perry v. Hollingsworth, again by a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled today that the plaintiffs did not have standing to appeal the lower court decision and so the District Court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional stands and so same-sex couples can get married in California. But it will not have wider application. The opinion can be read here.

The main point was that only the state has the right to defend a law that is challenged in federal courts. Private parties do not have the right to defend a law and the state cannot grant them that right, which is what the California Appeals court done.

The line up was interesting. The majority consisted of Chief Justice Roberts who wrote the opinion and he was joined by Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, with dissents by Kennedy Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor.

The opinion and the dissents will likely be technical in nature.

It is okay news and it could have been worse.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    Well, I predicted that the court would punt on the Prop. 8 issue and it did. Unfortunately, in leaving the District Court’s ruling in place, it set up possible litigation as to whether that ruling applies statewide, only in the environs of the District Court, or only to the couple who sued. More work for the lawyers.

  2. Chiroptera says

    … the US Supreme Court ruled today that the plaintiffs did not have standing to appeal the lower court decision and so the Appeals Court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional stands and so same-sex couples can get married in California.

    I’m not a lawyer, so my legalese is none too good, but I think the Court ruled that since the plaintiffs didn’t have standing, the Appeals Court erred in taking the case to begin with, and so the Appeals Court ruling was vacated.

    That leaves the District Court’s ruling in Perry v Schwarzenegger intact. In the end, Prop 8 is officially overturned in California, but the ruling does not apply to the other states that are under the Appeals Court’s jurisdiction. On the other hand, my understanding is that the ruling under Perry is a more sweeping expansion of rights for gay marriage than Hollingsworth.

  3. Mano Singham says

    The implications of this ruling are a bit complicated since it is not quite clear what the denial of standing means. Which of the lower court decisions becomes the operative one? Again, we’ll have to wait for the legal scholars to weigh in.

    If the net result is that same-sex marriage is legal in California, that will still be a significant victory. With this and DOMA, it will give a sounder footing for future challenges to make same-sex marriage legal in all states.

  4. slc1 says

    Oh, I am not a lawyer but there is no question that denial of standing means that the plaintiffs had no standing to appeal the District Court’s decision so the Appeals Court decision is null and void.

    Interestingly enough, all the legal beagles who have commented on this have opined that the Appeals Court’s decision was narrow. In a sense it was but it should be noted that, if the court had granted standing and upheld the Appeals Court’s decision, such a decision would have also meant that the 12 states and DC that have recognized same sex marriage could not reverse it in the future. No going back.

  5. says

    The anti-equality folks did not have standing to appeal Judge Walker’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. This means that Walker’s decision will stand, because no legitimate state official filed an appeal.

    There will be a bit of squawking about whether a district court’s decision applies to the whole state, but Walker’s decision was worded to make sure it did apply to everyone in the state (it tells the governor that Prop 8 shall not be enforced), and the people who matter (e.g., the governor and the courts) are on the side of equality. So it’s a pretty safe bet that everyone in CA will soon be able to marry.

  6. slc1 says

    I can guarantee that the opposition will argue that Walker exceeded his authority. I don’t think they will get very far but they might well delay the issuance of same sex marriage licenses for some time. IMHO, their strategy will be to cause as much delay in implementation as possible in the hope that something will turn up.

  7. says

    I agree. But from what I see, it seems their case would be very weak. Walker declared Prop 8 unconstitutional on its face, which (as I understand it) is well established to mean that the ruling applies to everyone affected.

    They’ll try to delay, but I don’t think they’re going to have many opportunities. They’d have to get a court to issue a stay, and my guess is that the courts are mostly going to say that the matter’s been decided.

    And without a court preventing him, Jerry Brown is going to start making marriage licences available. Heh, a quick google search shows that he’s already on it.

  8. garnetstar says

    I read somewhere that the justices had loaded the decision with lots of language that could be used to support later court rulings (not just SCOTUS courts) that marriage is a constitutional right, and cannot be denied. It lays the groundwork, so to speak. I hope so!

  9. Chiroptera says

    The anti-equality folks did not have standing to appeal Judge Walker’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. This means that Walker’s decision will stand, because no legitimate state official filed an appeal.

    I’m guessing this ruling also means that the Proponents didn’t have standing to defend Prop 8 in Perry. However, since the plaintiffs did have standing to bring the suit, that means that they would have won anyway by default, so probably not much would have changed as far as the final decision goes.

  10. says

    Yes, Walker (the district judge in California) issued a very strong ruling in favor of marriage equality. That decision won’t be binding on any other state (now that SCOTUS has decided that the anti-equality folks didn’t have standing to appeal), but other judges can still make use of his reasoning in their own opinions if they wish.

  11. says

    I think that doesn’t automatically follow, although there certainly is some tension in allowing a group to defend a law but then not allowing them to appeal the verdict.

    If I recall correctly, there’s a history of “interested parties” being allowed to defend cases but then being denied standing to appeal. Standing (which is required for the court to decide a case) can be a higher bar than the one used to decide whether someone can take part in a trial that is independently justified.

    The tension here can also be seen in the fact that today’s DOMA decision says it’s OK for Congress to defend DOMA b/c otherwise the executive branch (POTUS) could effectively decide what laws are constitutional, but then today’s Prop 8 decision says that only the elected representatives of California can defend the state’s laws on appeal — which basically gives the executive branch (the governor) the power to effectively decide which laws are constitutional.

  12. Mano Singham says

    What the justices ruled is that the interested parties could do the initial defense in the District Court since the AG and Governor refused to defend the initiative but that once that ruling went against the defendants, they had no standing to appeal since they had no suffered any harm by that decision.

    With DOMA, since Congress passed the law it may be that they suffered some harm in having it ruled unconstitutional in the lower courts, thus giving them the standing to appeal. But I don’t really know.

  13. says

    Yes, I think part of the idea is that Congress consists of elected officials and so they have some standing to speak for the U.S., but the pro-Prop-8 folks are just citizens that like the amendment — they have no special standing to represent California (even though the CA supreme court said citizens could defend ballot initiatives for the state if the administration refused to do so).

  14. kyoseki says

    They’ve already started closing the streets in West Hollywood for the celebration party, which should be something else :)

    I’m just glad I cycled to work today so I don’t have to deal with the traffic :D

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