If you’re not interested, just keep scrolling. For those who care, analysis under the cut. Bear in mind this is thrown together after a short reading of the case. I welcome questions, and ignore flames.
It is a time honored principle of the law that a person may not sue another person or a government if he himself has not been harmed by that person or government. All the Court did today was reinforce that notion and make it clear that it was applicable to the defending of such suits in addition to prosecuting them. If the state of California enacts a law or passes a referendum, then only the State (through its officials or its attorney general) may enforce and defend that law. The Court, outside if a few parenthetical statements never even broached the issue of the Constitutionality of Prop 8. I don’t believe this is a bad thing, but its not a win either. The case could go back down to the California trial level and have to be litigated again. I view this as more the Supreme Court stalling for time. Not all of the justices are quite ready to award full Equal Protection for same sex couples… yet. But it will be in my life, and probably much, much sooner than I ever could have imagined it 10 years ago.
… [W]e must put aside the natural urge to proceed directly to the merits of [an] important dispute and to ‘settle’ it for the sake of convenience and efficiency.” Raines v. Byrd, 521 U. S. 811, 820 (1997)
Petitioners [the private citizens defending the law] argue that the California Constitution and its election laws give them a “ ‘unique,’ ‘special,’ and ‘distinct’ role in the initiative process—one ‘involving both authority and responsibilities that differ from other supporters of the measure.’ ” Reply Brief 5 (quoting 52 Cal. 4th, at 1126, 1142, 1160, 265 P. 3d, at 1006, 1017–1018, 1030). True enough—but only when it comes to the process of enacting the law. Upon submitting the proposed initiative to the attorney general, petitioners became the official “proponents” of Proposition 8. Cal. Elec. Code Ann. §342 (West 2003).
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.