The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released a series of legal documents Tuesday that could shape the future of the case for and against gay marriage.
Most importantly, the judges asked the California Supreme Court for advice on whether the sponsors of Prop. 8 should be allowed to have standing to defend the same-sex marriage ban against a federal challenge.
You may remember that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former state Attorney General Jerry Brown both declined to defend the voter-approved initiative. If the state court rules that there is no such right to sponsors, then the appeal must be dismissed, according to the court.
The circuit court judges are being asked to rule on an appeal of U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's August ruling that Prop. 8 violates the constitutional rights of gay people to equal protection.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the California Supreme Court has, at times, allowed ballot measure proponents to defend measures in state cases. If that holds true, the three judges would be back on the hot seat and asked to rule on Vaughn's decision.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt posted two additional documents that were written by him alone.
He said he agreed entirely with the other judges on the other dispositions, but said, "I believe it desirable to set forth a few explanatory remarks." He wrote about the term "standing" and said he found the issue was becoming a trend in the judicial system, adding that he emphasized technical rules over the merits of the case itself.
The second was a defense of his wife. Proponents of Prop. 8 wanted Reinhardt to recuse himself from the appeal all together because his wife, Ramona Ripston, is a former director of the ACLU's Southern California office. Reinhardt explained in legal terms why that was not necessary.