Bob Egelko at the San Francisco Chronicle
The state Supreme Court plunged back into the same-sex marriage wars today, agreeing to decide the legality of a ballot measure that repealed the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed in California.
At the urging of both sponsors and opponents of Proposition 8, the justices voted 6-1 to grant review of lawsuits challenging the Nov. 4 initiative. However, the court refused, 6-1, to let same-sex marriages resume while it considers Prop. 8's constitutionality.
The court agreed today to review two related arguments by opponents of Prop. 8 - that the measure exceeds the legal scope of a ballot initiative by allowing a majority to restrict a minority group's rights, and that it violates the constitutional separation of powers by limiting judicial authority.
The justices also asked for arguments on whether Prop. 8, if constitutional, would nullify 18,000 same-sex weddings performed between when the court's marriage ruling took effect in mid-June and Nov. 4.
The justices asked for written arguments to be submitted by Jan. 21. The court could hold a hearing as early as March, with a ruling due 90 days later.
Opponents of Prop. 8 argue that it is a revision because it deprives a historically persecuted minority of fundamental rights and leaves courts powerless to intervene. A ruling upholding the measure would leave any minority group vulnerable to repeal of its rights by majority vote, the lawsuits argue.
Supporters of Prop. 8 say it is merely a constitutional amendment restoring the traditional definition of marriage and leaves the structure of state government unaffected. They contend a ruling overturning the measure would strike a blow at the people's power to change their Constitution by initiative.