By Pete Williams, NBC News
Backers of California’s Proposition 8, intended to ban same-sex marriage in the state, asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to take up their appeal after two lower federal courts found the measure unconstitutional.
The justices now face two gay rights issues: the Prop 8 appeal and two challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Voters in California approved Prop 8 in 2008, less than six months after the stateâ€™s Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage.Â The measure was immediately challenged.
A federal judge declared it unconstitutional in 2010, and a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in February that the ban discriminated against gays and lesbians. The full circuit declined to hear the appeal from Prop 8 supporters, though its ruling remains on hold until all legal avenues have been exhausted.
In urging the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, backers of the measure â€“ which includes that Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry — said the nation was in the midst of a public debate about “the profoundly important questionâ€ of â€œwhether the ancient and vital institution of marriage should be fundamentally redefined to include same-sex couples.”
Proponents of Prop 8 stepped in to lead the court battle after California officials concluded the ban was unconstitutional and declined to defend it.
The federal appeals court wrongly concluded, the Prop 8 backers said in their petition Tuesday, that because California’s domestic partnership law already gave same-sex couples the same legal rights that married couples have, all the measure did was take away their legal right to get marriage licenses.
Such a distinction, the appeals court determined, had no effect other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians.Â The court also found that Prop 8 unconstitutionally took away a fundamental right that the state had previously guaranteed.
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