Reporting from Los Angeles and San Francisco Jessica Garrison—The California Supreme Court voted 6 to 1 on Wednesday to review legal challenges to Proposition 8, the voter initiative that restored a ban on same-sex marriage, but refused to permit gay weddings to resume pending a final decision.
The court may hold a hearing on the lawsuits as early as March, a timetable that scholars said was swift considering the complexity and importance of the legal issues.
The court’s action, taken during a closed conference, suggested that the court wants to resolve all of the legal issues surrounding Proposition 8, including the fate of existing gay marriages, in a single ruling.
It also indicated that at least one of the court’s seven members, Justice Carlos R. Moreno, may be leaning in favor of overturning the measure. Moreno, who joined the state high court’s 4-3 ruling in May to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage, was the only justice to support granting a stay of the proposition.
In a move that puzzled some legal analysts, Justice Joyce L. Kennard, a generally reliable supporter of gay rights, voted to deny review of the Proposition 8 challenges. The court gave no indication of her reasons but said she was willing to hear a separate case on the validity of existing gay marriages.
Some analysts said the timeline for a hearing in the spring bodes well for the challengers, while others said it indicated nothing about the court’s leanings.
“If the justices were really leaning towards upholding Prop. 8, and that was clear, they would have wanted to do it as quickly as possible and put the issue to rest,” said UCLA law professor Brad Sears, an expert on sexual orientation law. He said the delay could indicate that the justices were divided and needed time to resolve the issues.
UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu said the court’s refusal to put Proposition 8 on hold pending a ruling did not suggest that the court would eventually uphold the measure. “A stay is an extraordinary measure,” he said.
Lawyers pressing the legal challenges praised the court and also refused to draw inferences from the court order.
Shannon Price Minter, a lawyer for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the litigants, expressed gratitude for the “extremely fast” time- table and disappointment that the court did not permit same-sex marriages to resume pending a final ruling.
“We are concerned that there may be some couples who will never be able to marry because of this because of death or illness,” Minter said.
Asked about Kennard’s vote to refuse to hear the challenges, Minter said: “I am neither worried nor complacent. I just feel like with all of them we have our work cut out to convince them. There is no telling where any of them stand.”
The campaign for Proposition 8 also praised the court’s action, which granted the campaign the right to argue in favor of the measure.
Read the full story from the Los Angeles Times.