Calif. Court: State Does Not Need to Defend Prop. 8

The state of California does not need to defend its voter-approved marriage definition, a state appellate court decided this past week.

Without an explanation, the Third District Court of Appeals dismissed Thursday the lawsuit seeking to force Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to defend Proposition 8 in the appeals case.

The Pacific Justice Institute – which filed the suit Aug. 30 on behalf of Joshua Beckley, pastor of Ecclesia Christian Fellowship church in San Bernardino – immediately appealed to the California Supreme Court.

The Sacramento-based legal group argues that Brown, the state's top law enforcement officer, does not have the right to only defend laws he personally agrees with.

"To allow an elected official to trump the will of the people by mere inaction and the lack of fulfillment of their duty to do their job would be an egregious violation of public trust," said PJI president Brad Dacus last week, according to The Associated Press.

Last month, supporters of Prop. 8 appealed the ruling of District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who determined that California's marriage definition is unconstitutional.

While the case could lead to a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, there is doubt as to whether California residents have a valid legal standing to appeal the case when the state's governor and attorney general refuse to defend the measure.

Schwarzenegger and Brown were named defendants in the original case, but did not defend Prop. 8 in the proceedings to date. Walker had allowed supporters of the measure to defend it in place of the state during the original court hearing, but recently called into question whether ordinary citizens can defend a state marriage law.

If the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides that Prop. 8 supporters do not have legal standing and the state does not defend the measure, then the appeals case will be dismissed and same-sex marriage will be legal in California.

Faced with this possibility, PJI has been working to get California's governor and attorney general on board the appeal.

The state has until Sept. 11 to challenge Judge Vaughn Walker's decision in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Ninth Circuit Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in December.

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