(Reuters) - The next stage of California's gay marriage court battle rests on a procedural issue that could halt the case, leaving same-sex unions legal in California without a Supreme Court ruling to guide the nation.
A San Francisco federal judge struck down the California same-sex marriage ban known as Proposition 8 earlier this month, and the case was immediately appealed to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Monday, those appellate judges set a hearing for December and put gay marriages on hold pending appeal. They made only one comment relating to legal issues, asking the pro Prop 8 team to say why the case should not be dismissed due to lack of standing -- a term for the right to appeal.
Strictly speaking, the California state government would be the proper body to represent the pro-Prop 8 case, but neither the governor nor the attorney general is willing to pursue it. The defense of the ban was so far made by an independent group that must prove its right to appeal.
The appeals court will make its decision on standing as the first step in its ruling on the case after the December hearing. If it decides that the Prop 8 proponents don't have standing, the judges won't even look at the main argument, following standard judicial policy of making rulings as narrow as possible. Read more: