SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Gay marriage opponents asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to stop same-sex weddings in the state and order that a voter initiative banning the nuptials remain in effect.
California voters passed the wedding ban, known as Proposition 8, in 2008 but a San Francisco federal judge struck down the initiative as unconstitutional. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that backers of the ban did not have the legal right to appeal.
A federal appeals court then allowed gay marriages to resume, and a wave of ceremonies around the state began immediately. Same-sex marriage currently is permitted in 13 states and Washington D.C., and gay rights advocates believe momentum is on their side to extend it further.
In court papers filed on Friday, however, the pro-Prop. 8 group Protectmarriage.com asked the California Supreme Court to immediately tell county clerks that Prop. 8 remains in effect and order them to stop issuing wedding licenses.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris opined last month that clerks should issue wedding licenses. A spokesman for her office could not immediately comment on the court filing on Friday.
Theodore Olson, who represented the gay couples that challenged Prop. 8 in court, called the latest court filing “a desperate and frivolous act.”
Protectmarriage.com attorneys wrote in their brief that the injunction against Prop. 8 only applies to the two couples who were plaintiffs in the federal litigation, not to the state as a whole.
“Because those plaintiffs have recently been married, all relief due under that injunction has already been provided,” they wrote, “and therefore none of the county clerks are required by that injunction to stop enforcing Proposition 8 in the future.”
However, Olson said clerks are bound to issue the licenses.
“Any county that defies the federal court’s injunction is at risk not only of contempt of court,” Olson said in a statement, “but also a lawsuit under the federal civil rights laws for which it would be liable for damages and the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.”
Jim Campbell, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Protectmarriage.com, said his group has no current plans to seek to uphold Prop. 8 in any other court. The California Supreme Court’s normal schedule for such a proceeding calls for the state to respond in 10 days, Campbell said, but the court could change that timeline.
Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Jim Loney