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Calif. attorney general seeks resumption of gay marriages
Question of the Day
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s top attorney has dealt another setback for those seeking to ban gay marriage with her request to allow the unions to resume immediately in the state, the latest in a string of about-faces siding with same-sex couples.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris‘ request Tuesday to an appeals court considering the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban comes a week after the Obama administration said it would no longer defend a federal law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay unions.
Together, the two actions represent a blow to opponents of gay marriage, as well as to Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative that banned the unions in California in 2008.
In a letter to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ms. Harris joined the lawyers for two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco in seeking the resumption of gay marriages in California. The unions were put on hold while Proposition 8’s sponsors appeal a trial judge’s ruling striking down the ban.
Ms. Harris said those sponsors were unlikely to prevail in their appeal and that keeping the ban in effect was a fruitless violation of gay Californians’ civil rights.
“The public interest weighs heavily against the government sanctioning such discrimination by permitting it to continue,” she wrote.
Ms. Harris also said the case for allowing gay marriages was bolstered by the Obama administration’s announcement last week that it would no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
While not directly relevant to Proposition 8, the administration’s new position “substantially diminished” the likelihood the measure’s sponsors will be successful in their effort to get the lower court ruling overturned, she said.
Andy Pugno, legal counsel for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot and campaigned for its passage, disputed the attorney general’s contention that the prospects for a successful appeal were any dimmer now.
“It’s a highly politicized case, and this is just a reminder that we need the initiative process exactly because state officials sometimes refuse to do their job,” Mr. Pugno said. “The fact that President Obama has made a carefully calculated political decision in no way changes the law and the role of the court to decide Prop. 8’s validity.”
Ms. Harris, a Democrat who previously served as San Francisco’s district attorney and who was a strong supporter of Mr. Obama’s in 2008, succeeded Gov. Jerry Brown as attorney general in January. Mr. Brown had refused to defend Proposition 8 in his previous role, as did then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Last year, both men asked the 9th Circuit to let gay couples marry during the appeals process.
The push by Ms. Harris to get same-sex marriage quickly reinstated in California could further enflame conservative activists angered by the Obama administration’s new stance.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, said Tuesday it suspected the government was colluding with lawyers in the Proposition 8 case.
Mr. Perkins pointed out that lawyers for the two California couples asked the 9th Circuit to lift its stay just a few hours after U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the administration’s new position on the federal act.
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