Court says backers can defend gay marriage measure

By the Associated Press | November 17, 2011 | 1:10 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California's highest court says ballot proposition sponsors can step in to defend their initiatives from legal challenges if the state's governor and attorney general refuse to do so.

The California Supreme Court on Thursday responded to a pivotal question from the federal appeals court that is considering the ban's constitutionality.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the inquiry in January after concluding it needed to determine first if Proposition 8's sponsors have authority to defend the measure.

In its analysis, the state court did not address that specific case, but says the lawmaking power granted to citizens under the state constitution doesn't end once propositions have been approved or rejected by voters.

The appeals court panel now must decide whether to accept the court's guidance and if so, how to apply it to the ongoing legal skirmish involving Proposition 8.