California's highest court agreed Wednesday to hear several legal challenges to the state's new same-sex marriage ban, but refused to allow gay couples to resume marrying until it rules on the measure's validity.
The California Supreme Court accepted three lawsuits seeking to nullify Proposition 8, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that overruled the court's May decision legalizing gay marriage.
As is its custom when it takes up cases, the court did not elaborate on its decision.
Along with the gay rights groups and local governments petitioning to overturn the ban, the measure's sponsors and Attorney General Jerry Brown had urged the Supreme Court to consider whether Proposition 8 passes legal muster.
The court directed Brown and lawyers for the Yes on 8 campaign to submit their arguments for why the ballot initiative should not be nullified by Dec. 19 and lawyers for the plaintiffs, who include same-sex couples who did not wed before the election, to respond before Jan. 5. Oral arguments could be scheduled as early as March, according to court spokeswoman Lynn Holton.
Both opponents and supporters of Proposition 8 expressed confidence Wednesday their arguments would prevail.
“This is a great day for the rule of law and the voters of California,” said ProtectMarriage.com General Counsel Andy Pugno. “This order means that voters will get their day in court and ensures that voters will have a vigorous defense of Proposition 8 before the California Supreme Court. We are profoundly gratified with the Court’s order and are confident that Proposition 8 will be upheld.”
"If given effect, Proposition 8 would work a dramatic, substantive change to our Constitution's 'underlying principles' of individual on a scale and scope never previously condoned by this court," lawyers for the same-sex couples stated in their petition.
All three cases claim Proposition 8 abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. The lawsuits argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.
Over the last century, the California Supreme Court has heard nine cases challenging legislative acts or ballot initiatives as improper revisions. The court eventually invalidated three of the measures, according to the gay rights group Lambda Legal.