Prop 8 sponsors appeal to full Ninth Circuit court 

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The sponsors of Proposition 8 made good Tuesday on their promise to appeal a federal court decision earlier this month declaring California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the group ProtectMarriage.com appealed the ruling by a three-member panel of the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit to a larger, 11-member panel of the same court, rather than directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That will keep the case, for now, within the confines of what is considered the most liberal federal appeals court in the country.

“After careful consideration, we determined that asking for reconsideration by the full Ninth Circuit is in the best interests of defending Prop 8,” the measure’s general counsel Andrew Pugno said in a statement.

The Ninth Circuit panel’s 2-1 ruling on Feb. 7 concluded that Prop 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause of 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

Pugno said that opinion conflicted with prior state and federal court decisions upholding traditional marriage laws.

“This gives the entire Ninth Circuit a chance to correct this anomalous decision by just two judges overturning the vote of seven million Californians,” he said.

Prop 8 opponents issued a statement saying they opposed a review by the larger panel.

“We are ready to defend our victory whatever path this case takes,” said Theodore Boutrous, Jr., an attorney for the plaintiffs.

San Francisco began marrying same-sex couples in 2004, before California voters passed Prop 8 in 2008 by a narrow 52-percent margin. In 2010, a federal judge in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, declared the law unconstitutional, triggering the appeal.

Incorporated in the appeal is a separate challenge that Walker — a GOP appointee who retired in 2011 — should have disclosed prior to the case that he was in a long-term relationship with a gay man.

The marriages of some 18,000 gay and lesbian couples in California who wed before Proposition 8 remain legal, though a stay on new same-sex marriages will likely remain in effect pending the appeal.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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