The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling handed down Tuesday, rejected Imperial County’s appeal to represent the state of California in federal court over Proposition 8.
The three judges, in their ruling, rejected the claim by the county, the Board of Supervisors and the deputy clerk, that they could represent the state in federal court. The Court determined that the Deputy Clerk Isabel Vargas lacked standing because her role was to do whatever the chief Clerk ordered, and since the elected Chief Clerk didn’t sue, she couldn’t.
The ruling also said that the county itself lacks standing because, other than stamping marriage licenses (the clerk’s job), the County itself had no protectable interest in the case.
“Standing” is the right to represent the interests of the state and its voters.
The Board of Supervisors voted to seek to intervene in the case in 2009 and voted to appeal the rejection of California Superior Court Judge Vaughn Walker to intervene in the case. They were represented in court by Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a Christian-based law firm from Murietta, California.
The court also sent the other part of the case back to the California Supreme Court for clarification on whether the pro Proposition 8 organization ProtectMarriage.com, has legal standing to defend Proposition 8 in court if the state refuses to do so.
The ruling said that “we cannot consider this important constitutional question unless the appellants before us have standing to raise it”
If the proponents are found to not have standing, the Court of Appeals could affirm Judge Walker’s decision and legalize gay marriage once again in California.
In March of 2000, California voters passed Proposition 22, which determined that marriage would be “between a man and a woman.” Prior to the resolution of a lawsuit over Prop 22, two bills passed by the California legislature were vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In May 2008, the proposition was invalidated and over 11,000 same-sex couples were allowed to marry.
Proposition 8 was then placed on the November 2008 ballot in California and passed with a vote of 52.47% to 47.53%. The next day, three legal challenges, including the current Perry v. Schwarzenegger were then filed.
Both Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Gerry Brown refused to defend Proposition 8 in court, both saying they thought the law was unconstitutional.