Proposition 8: Supreme Court Rules On California's Gay Marriage Ban

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court decided that traditional marriage activists who put the anti-gay marriage measure Proposition 8 on California ballots in 2008 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

The judgement of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was vacated and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. While California will likely begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the decision will not have an impact beyond the state's borders, and other same-sex marriage bans across the country will be left intact.

California voters added the ban to the state's constitution in 2008 through a ballot initiative that reversed the state Supreme Court's recognition of same-sex marriage earlier that year. Two same-sex couples challenged Proposition 8 in federal court, and by the time their suit reached the justices, two lower courts had declared the ban unconstitutional.

Because standing is a threshold question in any federal case, the justices did not reach the plaintiffs' main argument that Proposition 8 violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection and deprives same-sex couples of the right to marry.

"[I]t is not enough that the party invoking the power of the court have a keen interest in the issue," the majority wrote. Because the Court did not find that the Proposition 8 proponents had "concrete and particularized injury," the justices concluded that they "have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the Ninth Circuit."

This is a developing story and will be updated.



Supreme Court Proposition 8 Case