Will the Prop 8 Case Be Moot Before It Gets to the Supreme Court?

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Following last week’s decision finding that California’s Prop 8 was unconstitutional, much of the talk centered around what the Supreme Court would do when presented with the question whether a ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional. The thinking is that the Ninth Circuit will hear the case and, especially if the Ninth Circuit affirms the district court’s finding of unconstitutionality, the Supreme Court would enter the fray.

However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that, even though the Supreme Court will probably enter this debate at some point in the future, this particular case will probably be moot by the time the Supreme Court would decide.

Prop 8 opponents have organized a campaign to get marriage back on the ballot in California. After much debate in the LGBT community, the decision was made to push for a marriage ballot resolution in 2012 (rather than 2010). So, in two years, Californians will once again vote on whether same-sex couples can marry.

Why the confidence that a marriage resolution in 2012 will result in same-sex marriage when the marriage resolution in 2008 rejected it? Yesterday’s news from CNN illustrates it. For the first time in a serious national poll, gay marriage polled majority support. The position in favor of equality has momentum at its back.

Not only is there momentum, but there’s also demographics. Gay marriage has much more support by younger voters than older voters. Four years is enough to make a huge difference in this regard, as older voters die off and younger people become voters (or, if voting age already, become more consistent voters).

Thus, in November 2012, I think it’s a pretty good bet that the voters of California will vote for same-sex marriage. They voted down same-sex marriage in 2008 by only 4 points. In 2012, they’ll probably vote in favor of same-sex marriage by a small, but definite margin. Prop 8 will be history. Assuming a normal appeals process, involving a panel of the Ninth Circuit, an en banc review by the Ninth Circuit, then a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court, followed by briefing and argument, I just can’t imagine the Supreme Court deciding before November 2012.

And by that time, the case will be moot, as justice will already have been attained through the ballot box.

Cross-posted at the Faculty Lounge.

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