There is nothing that compelled a similar response from the court in the case over California’s Proposition 8, the state constitutional ban on gay marriage that voters adopted in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. Indeed, the gay marriage supporters who prevailed in the lower courts urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the case and allow same-sex unions to resume in the nation’s largest state.
Even some gay rights activists worried that it was too soon in the evolution of views toward same-sex marriage to ask the justices to intervene and declare that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.
But Theodore Olson, the Washington lawyer who represents Californians who sued over Proposition 8, said he will argue that there is a “fundamental constitutional right to marry for all citizens.”
Opponents of gay marriage said Friday they are heartened by the Supreme Court’s action.
“We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage and a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.
On the other side of the issue, advocates for same-sex unions said the court could easily decide in favor of gay marriage in California without issuing a sweeping national ruling to overturn every state prohibition on marriage.
In striking down Proposition 8, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals crafted a narrow ruling that said because gay Californians already had been given the right to marry, the state could not later take it away. The ruling studiously avoided overarching pronouncements.