California's Supreme Court voted unanimously Wednesday to decide whether the sponsors of a 2008 ballot measure prohibiting same-sex marriage have the legal standing to defend it under state law.
The high court's intervention will delay an ultimate decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is weighing the Proposition 8 marriage ban, and could have a significant impact on the outcome.
The federal appeals court had asked the state high court to provide guidance on whether ProtectMarriage.com, the proponents of the 2008 ballot measure, could defend it before the 9th Circuit after California officials refused to do so.
ProtectMarriage's chances of winning standing in federal court would likely improve if the state Supreme Court finds the group has standing under state law, said constitutional law expert Vikram Amar, a professor at the UC Davis School of Law.
The federal appeals court, however, isn't legally required to follow the state court's decision, Amar said. The high court also won't look at the merits of the appeal.
"It's possible the California Supreme Court could give feedback that makes it a much stronger case that federal standing exists," Amar said. "In the opposite direction, if the California Supreme Court said sponsors don't occupy any special role under state law, that would all but doom sponsor standing in federal court."
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