WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday left for dead California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, but the question of gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional right to marry remains very much alive.
By a 5-4 vote, the justices held in Hollingsworth v. Perry that the traditional marriage activists who put Proposition 8 on California ballots in 2008 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial.
“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”
Roberts was joined in his majority opinion by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.
The judgement of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was vacated and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. While California will likely begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the decision will not have an impact beyond the state’s borders, and other same-sex marriage bans across the country will be left intact.