The California Supreme Court, in two sentences, felled Proposition 8, the voter-passed constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. On Wednesday, the state’s highest court denied a motion from Prop 8 proponents to preserve the measure, allowing gay marriages to continue statewide.
The state supreme court was the last hope for the amendment’s defenders. The court gave no explanation for its dismissal (see a PDF of the court’s order). The dismissal did not reflect any position by the court on the constitutionality of Prop 8.
Prop 8 defenders had argued the measure was still in effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling, which dismissed the case on standing. With the high court’s dismissal, the only legitimate ruling on Prop 8 that remained was at the district court level, where a district judge had struck down the measure. Typically a district-level ruling would only apply to the parties in the case, not to the whole state. But state officials argued that for the sake of continuity, if one judge struck down Prop 8, no jurisdiction had to comply with Prop 8. The state, which has declined to defend the law, ordered clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
“Though the current California officials are unwilling to enforce the state constitution, we remain hopeful that one day Californians will elect officials who will,” said Austin Nimocks, counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been working on the case. “It is unfortunate that the California Supreme Court chose not to decide the important, still-unresolved questions about the enforcement of Proposition 8, the law of the land in California.”