The California Supreme Court ruled that sponsors of ballot propositions might step in to defend their efforts even if officials will not, granting proponents of the gay marriage ban the right to speak up.
This means that although the constitutionality of Proposition 8 has been challenged by a variety of gay advocacy groups, now regular citizens will have the right to defend the bill without the governor and attorney general.
The ruling, written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, read: "We conclude that California law authorizes the official proponents, under such circumstances, to appear in the proceeding to assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure," reported The Associated Press.
The California Supreme Court ruled that the general public’s legislative authority does not end simply because a law was rejected or accepted; this is a significant update, because ever since Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the gay marriage ban in 2010, citizens have been attempting to fight it.
Andy Pugno, General Counsel of the Protect Marriage organization, told the Associated Press: "We are delighted that the Supreme Court has clearly reaffirmed our right, as the official proponents of Prop 8, to defend over seven million Californians who amended their own State Constitution to restore traditional marriage."
Opponents of the gay marriage ban argue that the California Supreme Court’s ruling could have negative effects on laws, not just Proposition 8.
"Allowing the Prop 8 proponents to have special rights in court may open the floodgates to wealthy special interests to do the same," said Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, a California progressive group. "The judges of the 9th Circuit must determine if people who had enough money to buy a ballot measure that calls for people to vote on each other's rights should have special rights in federal court."
To Jacobs, allowing big conservative groups like the Protect Marriage to contest court decisions could end up with big companies doing the same.
However, it is rare that government officials choose not to act, especially on issues so hotly debated among voters. In California, it has happened several times.
Pugno said the court’s decision could be the catalyst that cements the gay marriage ban into unchallenged law.
"This victory is an enormous boost for Proposition 8 as well as the integrity of the initiative process itself," Pugno said.