updated 11/17/2008 9:34:40 PM ET 2008-11-18T02:34:40

The state attorney general and sponsors of the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California urged its Supreme Court to hear a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn the ban, saying the matter is too urgent to be unsettled.

"The petitions raise issues of statewide importance, implicating not only California's marriage laws but also the initiative process and the Constitution itself," Attorney General Jerry Brown argued in his filing.

"This court can provide certainty and finality in this matter," he said.

Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote earlier this month, overturned the high court's May decision legalizing gay marriage in California. The measure inserts language into the constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

Gay and civil rights groups, the city of San Francisco and other plaintiffs have asked the court to void the measure on the grounds that voters did not have the authority to make, what they say, is a fundamental constitutional change.

No deadline for justices
There is no deadline for the justices to decide whether they'll take the cases.

The litigation has made unwitting allies of supporters of the same-sex marriage ban and the attorney general, who voted against the proposition. Over the summer, anti-gay marriage groups sued Brown after his office changed the measure's wording to reflect that it would take away a right that same-sex couples then had.

Brown has since said that in his role as California's top public lawyer, he will fight to uphold Proposition 8 as an expression of public sentiment on same-sex marriage. The preliminary documents he filed Monday did not address that issue.

Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the Yes on 8 campaign, said the measure's supporters are so confident the Supreme Court would uphold the initiative they want the court to take the cases and resolve the question quickly.

"There is no question Proposition 8 is exactly the type of amendment the framers of the Constitution envisioned for the people to be able to enact," Pugno said.

Less confident
The Protect Marriage coalition is less confident about Brown's sincere interest in defending the gay marriage ban in court, according to Pugno. That's why the coalition asked the court for permission to intervene in the cases Monday.

"Everyone knows the AG opposed Proposition 8, did everything he could to undermine it and it still passed anyway," he said. "There is little hope he would make much effort at all to defend Prop. 8."

Both the attorney general and Protect Marriage asked the court to reject a request from gay marriage supporters for a stay that would allow same-sex couples to resume marrying in California until the broader legal issues are addressed.

Meanwhile, the interfaith California Council of Churches and the Episcopal bishops of Northern California and Los Angeles added their petition Monday to those asking the high court to invalidate Proposition 8. They argue that if voters are permitted to take away rights from a group based on sexual orientation, the same could happen to religious minorities.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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