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Brown urges Prop. 8 review

Attorney general wants state Supreme Court to weigh lawsuits while letting initiative stay in effect.

November 18, 2008|Maura Dolan | Dolan is a Times staff writer.

SAN FRANCISCO — As more lawsuits against Proposition 8 landed before the California Supreme Court, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown and the anti-gay-marriage campaign urged the court Monday to review the suits but allow the measure to remain in effect during that review.

Brown, whose office defends state laws, said in papers filed with the court that the lawsuits against the anti-gay-marriage initiative raised issues of statewide importance that should be addressed by the state's highest court "to provide certainty and finality."

But Brown's office also said the court should refrain from granting a preliminary order to put the measure on hold pending a court ruling.

If same-sex couples were permitted to marry now -- and the court eventually upheld Proposition 8 -- those couples would be "left uncertain as to the ultimate legal standing of their marriages," Brown's office said.

In a footnote, the attorney general stressed that nothing in the state's response to the lawsuits should be construed to suggest that the state "questions the validity of any same-sex marriage" that occurred before Nov. 5, when Proposition 8 became law.

The campaign behind Proposition 8 also urged the court to review the legal dispute and rule quickly. Proposition 8 backers want to intervene in the litigation because they said Brown cannot be trusted to defend the measure.

"We feel confident that the law is on our side, and the court will make a correct decision," said Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Proposition 8. "We are not confident the attorney general will vigorously defend Proposition 8 in light of his strong opposition to the measure."

Opponents of Proposition 8 argue that it was a sweeping constitutional revision, which can be put on the ballot only by the Legislature, instead of a more limited constitutional amendment, as supporters contend.

A wide array of groups and local governments have urged the state high court in six lawsuits -- two more were filed Monday -- to overturn the measure. The lawsuits contend that Proposition 8 illegally revised the state Constitution by altering fundamental constitutional principles.

The latest anti-Proposition 8 lawsuit was filed by the California Council on Churches, the Episcopal Bishop of California, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and the Unitarian Universalist Assn. of Congregations.

The California Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 on May 15 to overturn a state ban on same-sex marriage, but Christian groups gathered enough signatures to place Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot. It passed with about 52% of the vote.

Liberty Counsel, which has fought same-sex marriage, also filed papers with the California Supreme Court on Monday and urged the court to dismiss the lawsuits without review. The Christian legal group said the court should protect the democratic process.

"The people of California have spoken by affirming traditional marriage," said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. "It is time to move on. Fourteen words that reaffirm the historic and common sense definition of marriage are not a radical revision to the Constitution."

Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen said he was not surprised that Brown's office urged the court to review the petitions, even though Brown's office is supposed to defend ballot initiatives that pass.

Because Brown defined the legal dispute as a "statewide concern," Uelmen said, "it makes sense to bypass the lower courts and just go ahead and hear them."

Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which filed one of the Proposition 8 lawsuits, said he was pleased that Brown recognized the importance of the case and "was so strongly supporting review."

The court has yet to respond to the lawsuits. It could dismiss them or grant review.

If it reviews them, the court probably would ask for more written arguments and set a date for a hearing.

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maura.dolan@latimes.com

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