The fight over Prop 8, the initiative banning same-sex marriage passed by California voters in 2008, received new life Thursday as the state Supreme Court gave permission for the law's backers to defend it in court.
The court's opinion will give Prop 8 sponsors the rare authority to defend the state's interest.
California public officials declined to appeal Federal District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker's August 2010 ruling that the law was unconstitutional. That move would have condemned the initiative to die, so sponsors of the law took their fight to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking for permission to defend it.
Local news from across Southern California
Thursday's opinion gives them that authority.
The case will now return to federal court for the group's appeal.
"While the Department of Justice argued the Proposition 8 proponents do not have standing to pursue this appeal, the court has ruled otherwise," wrote Attorney General Kamala D. Harris in a statement.
"This ruling now shifts the litigation to the federal court of appeals. I firmly believe that Proposition 8 violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and am confident that justice will prevail," wrote Harris.
Although the decision empowers backers of Prop 8, the ruling was celebrated by advocates of same-sex marriage.
"While a disappointing ruling, this case is now back in federal court, where we expect a quick victory. The ruling addresses only a procedural legal question," said Jon W. Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal.
"We're looking forward to the court dealing with this issue, now, on the merits," attorney David Boies said on a conference call with the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Read the full ruling here.
More on Prop 8 Ruling: