Politics & Government

California's poorest county may appeal court's Prop 8 ruling

In overturning California's same-sex marriage ban, U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker suggested Proposition 8 defenders might not have legal standing to appeal because they are not directly affected by gay marriages.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to defend the measure on behalf of the state, and Walker said there may be no one left to show "a concrete and particularized injury that is actual or imminent."

Enter Imperial County, population 167,000 and the state's poorest, where voters overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8 and where officials say they will be harmed if same-sex marriages resume. Because the county issues marriage licenses, county officials say, it has standing other Proposition 8 proponents might lack.

The county tried unsuccessfully to intervene in district court, but is still trying. It is joining Proposition 8's main proponents in appealing Walker's ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The potential significance of the county's involvement was highlighted Monday when the appeals court kept same-sex marriages on hold at least until December, while the case is on appeal. The court told Proposition 8 proponents to explain why they should be allowed to defend a case against the state, when the state itself is not defending it.

If they can't, the court could decline to further consider the appeal.

Proposition 8's creators and proponents say they have standing because they have an interest in defending the constitutionality of an initiative they sponsored.

But just in case, they have Imperial County, in the state's southeast corner, bordering Arizona and Mexico.

Approved by 52 percent of voters statewide in 2008, Proposition 8 enjoyed nearly 70 percent support in Imperial.

"It was really a matter of deciding," said Imperial County Supervisor Jack Terrazas, "do we represent the folks that we represent, or do we just sit by and idly see how it goes?"

Terrazas said Proposition 8 supporters asked the county to intervene. Murrieta-based Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a Christian legal group, is representing the county for free.

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