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California Supreme Court Justices Hear Prop 8 Arguments

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The California Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in San Francisco on who has the right to bring an appeal in the state's battle over same sex marriage.

The state high court was asked by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to give an advisory opinion on whether sponsors of Proposition 8 can appeal a federal court ruling that struck down the initiative.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye summed up the argument of Prop 8 defense attorney Charles Cooper for him during an hour of oral arguments.

"Is it your argument that rank official proponents are alone in the defense of and government officials drop out? That it's no longer discretionary, that it is a matter of right in order to safeguard the precious power of the initiative?" she asked.

Theodore Olson argued for the plaintiffs and countered that only the state, and not the people have the right to defend initiatives in court.

"Under the initiative power (it) specifically said it's the power to propose and the power to enact," said Olson. "It does not say it is the power to defend."

After the hearing, Proposition 8 defense attorney Austin Nimocks said he believes most of the seven justices seem to be leaning toward letting the appeal proceed.

"We feel very good about how the arguments went," Nimocks said. "We felt very confident before going in and we feel even more confident coming out."

But Olson said he was just as confident and even if his side loses, ultimately he feels they will prevail.

"The decision of the district court will be affirmed on the merits and the proposition will be struck down that way," Olson said.

The California Supreme Court now has 90 days to issue a written ruling. After the state court rules, the case will go back to the federal appeals court for a final decision.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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