The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped the question of same-sex marriage Wednesday, ruling 5-4 that the organizations defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage in court did not have legal standing to do so.
The state of California had refused to defend the constitutional amendment, dubbed Proposition 8, after it was struck down by a U.S. District Court judge. Two private organizations, ProtectMarriage.com and the Campaign for California Families, stepped in to appear in federal appeals court on behalf of the amendment.
The ruling means that the district court judge’s decision will stand, and same-sex marriage will once again become legal in California—but the ruling will not impact marriage laws in other states.
The lineup of justices in the majority was an unusual one: Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion.
“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,” the opinion reads.
In May 2008, the California Supreme Court held that state statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex applicants violated the California Constitution. In response, California voters narrowly approved a constitutional amendment that November banning same-sex marriage.
A so-called “legal dream team” of David Boies and Theodore Olsen, who had argued opposite sides of the Bush v. Gore case, challenged the amendment on behalf of several same-sex couples.