The Supreme Court decided Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144 (2013), holding that petitioners did not have standing to appeal Proposition 8.
As background, California granted same-sex marriages. However, this was later reversed through Proposition 8. Under Proposition 8, California Constitution was changed to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court held that Proposition 8 left the rights of same-sex couples largely undisturbed, reserving only the official designation of the term marriage for the union of opposite-sex couples.
The parties in this lawsuit help explain the Supreme Court’s decision. Respondents (Plaintiffs), two same-sex couples who wished to marry, filed a lawsuit in federal court. Defendants (including the Governor, Attorney General, and other officials) did not decent the law. Nevertheless, Defendants continued to enforce the law.
Petitioners, who appealed, were official proponents of Proposition 8. Petitioners, instead of Defendants, defended Proposition 8. The District Court then held that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Petitioners (not Defendants) appealed.
Now the question is: do these Petitioners have standing in order to be involved in this case? The California Supreme Court held that Petitioners were authorized to appear and assert the state’s interest in the validity of Proposition 8. The Ninth Circuit then affirmed the District Court’s decision, ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court ruled that Petitioners did not have standing. First of all, when Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional two things happened: Respondents (Plaintiffs) no longer had an injury to redress because they won; and Defendants chose not to appeal.
Petitioners did not have a personal and individual injury. There was no “direct stake” in the outcome of the appeal. In other words, they were pushing a generalized grievance. Consequently, Petitioners could not appeal.
The Supreme Court explained,
No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8 or how “zealous [their] advocacy,” that is not a “particularized” interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.