Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Vaughn R. Walker, Chief District Judge, Presiding (No. 10-16696) James Ware, Chief District Judge, Presiding (No. 11-16577) D.C. No. 3:09-cv-02292-VRW D.C. No. 3:09-cv-02292-JW
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reinhardt, Circuit Judge
Argued and Submitted December 6, 2010 San Francisco, California
Submission Withdrawn January 4, 2011
Resubmitted February 7, 2012 No. 11-16577:
Argued and Submitted December 8, 2011 San Francisco, California
Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins, and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Reinhardt; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge N.R. Smith
Prior to November 4, 2008, the California Constitution guaranteed the right to marry to opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples alike. On that day, the People of California adopted Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. We consider whether that amendment violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.
Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted. Because under California statutory law, same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, all parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right-the right to obtain and use the designation of 'marriage' to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California's interests in child-rearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples. Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents' rights to control their children's education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard these liberties.
All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of 'marriage,' which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships. Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for "laws of this sort." Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 633 (1996).
"Broader issues have been urged for our consideration, but we adhere to the principle of deciding constitutional questions only in the context of the particular case before the Court." Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 631 (1950). Whether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry, a right that has long been enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, is an important and highly controversial question. It is currently a matter of great debate in our nation, and an issue over which people of good will may disagree, sometimes strongly. Of course, when questions of constitutional law are necessary to the resolution of a case, courts may not and should not abstain from deciding them simply because they are controversial. We need not and do not answer the broader question in this case, however, because California had already extended to committed same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of 'marriage,' and Proposition 8's only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents. This unique and strictly limited effect of Proposition 8 allows us to address the amendment's constitutionality on narrow grounds.
Thus, as a result of our "traditional reluctance to extend constitutional interpretations to situations or facts which are not before the Court, much of the excellent research and detailed argument presented in th[is] case[ ] is unnecessary to [its] disposition." Id. Were we unable, however, to resolve the matter on the basis we do, we would not hesitate to proceed to the broader question-the constitutionality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
Before considering the constitutional question of the validity of Proposition 8's elimination of the rights of same-sex couples to marry, we first decide that the official sponsors of Proposition 8 are entitled to appeal the decision below, which declared the measure unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement. The California Constitution and Elections Code endow the official sponsors of an initiative measure with the authority to represent the State's interest in establishing the validity of a measure enacted by the voters, when the State's elected leaders refuse to do so. See Perry v. Brown, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d 499 (2011). It is for the State of California to decide who may assert its interests in litigation, and we respect its decision by holding that Proposition 8's proponents have standing to bring this appeal on behalf of the State. We therefore conclude that, through the proponents of ballot measures, the People of California must be allowed to defend in federal courts, including on appeal, the validity of their use of the initiative power. Here, however, their defense fails on the merits. The People may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.
We also affirm-for substantially the reasons set forth in the district court's opinion-the denial of the motion by the official sponsors of Proposition 8 to vacate the judgment entered by former Chief Judge Walker, on the basis of his purported interest in being allowed to marry his same-sex partner.
Upon its founding, the State of California recognized the legal institution of civil marriage for its residents. See, e.g., Cal. Const. of 1849, art. XI, §§ 12, 14 (discussing marriage contracts and marital property); Cal. Stats. 1850, ch. 140 ("An Act regulating Marriages"). Marriage in California was understood, at the time and well into the twentieth century, to be limited to relationships between a man and a woman. See In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384, 407-09 (Cal. 2008). In 1977, that much was made explicit by the California Legislature, which amended the marriage statute to read, "Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary." Cal. Stats. 1977, ch. 339, § 1. The 1977 provision remains codified in California statute. See Cal. Fam. Code § 300(a).
Following the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419 (codified in relevant part at 1 U.S.C. § 7), which expressly limited the federal definition of marriage to relationships between one man and one woman, dozens of states enacted similar provisions into state law. See Andrew Koppelman, The Difference the Mini-DOMAs Make, 38 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 265, 265-66 (2007). California did so in 2000 by adopting Proposition 22, an initiative statute, which provided, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Cal. Fam. Code § 308.5. The proposition ensured that same-sex marriages performed in any state that might permit such marriages in the future would not be recognized in California, and it guaranteed that any legislative repeal of the 1977 statute would not allow same-sex couples to marry within the State, because the Legislature may not amend or repeal an initiative statute enacted by the People. See Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 409-10.
Meanwhile, however, California had created the designation "domestic partnership" for "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." Cal. Stats. 1999, ch. 588, § 2 (codified at Cal. Fam. Code § 297(a)). At first, California gave registered domestic partners only limited rights, such as hospital visitation privileges, id. § 4, and health benefits for the domestic partners of certain state employees, id. § 3. Over the next several years, however, the State substantially expanded the rights of domestic partners. By 2008, "California statutory provisions generally afford[ed] same-sex couples the opportunity to . . . obtain virtually all of the benefits and responsibilities afforded by California law to married opposite-sex couples." Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 417-18. The 2003 Domestic Partner Act provided broadly: "Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses." Cal. Stats. 2003, ch. 421, § 4 (codified at Cal. Fam. Code § 297.5(a)). It withheld only the official designation of marriage and thus the officially conferred and societally recognized status that accompanies that designation.
In 2004, same-sex couples and the City and County of San Francisco filed actions in California state courts alleging that the State's marriage statutes violated the California Constitution. Proposition 22 was among the statutes challenged, because as an initiative statutory enactment, it was equal in dignity to an enactment by the Legislature and thus subject to the restrictions of the state constitution.*fn1 The consolidated cases were eventually decided by the California Supreme Court, which held the statutes to be unconstitutional, for two independent reasons.
First, the court held that the fundamental right to marry provided by the California Constitution could not be denied to same-sex couples, who are guaranteed "the same substantive constitutional rights as opposite-sex couples to choose one's life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage." Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d at 433-34. The court began by reaf-firming that "the right to marry is an integral component of an individual's interest in personal autonomy protected by the privacy provision of article I, section 1 [of the California Constitution], and of the liberty interest protected by the due process clause of article I, section 7." Id. at 426 (emphasis omitted). It then held "that an individual's homosexual orientation is not a constitutionally legitimate basis for withholding or restricting the individual's legal rights." Id. at 429. The court acknowledged that although such an inclusive understanding of the right to marry was one that had developed only "in recent decades," as the State extended greater recognition to same-sex couples and households, it was "apparent that history alone does not provide a justification for interpret-ing the constitutional right to marry as protecting only one's ability to enter into an officially recognized family relationship with a person of the opposite sex," because " '[f]undamental rights, once recognized, cannot be denied to particular groups on the ground that these groups have historically been denied those rights.' " Id. at 428-30 (quoting Hernandez v. Robles, 7 N.Y.3d 338, 381 (2006) (Kaye, C.J., dissenting)).
The court concluded its due process analysis by rejecting the argument that the availability of domestic partnerships satisfied "all of the personal and dignity interests that have traditionally informed the right to marry," because "[t]he current statutes-by drawing a distinction between the name assigned to the family relationship available to opposite-sex couples and the name assigned to the family relationship available to same-sex couples, and by reserving the historic and highly respected designation of 'marriage' exclusively to opposite-sex couples while offering same-sex couples only the new and unfamiliar designation of domestic partnership-pose a serious risk of denying the official family relationship of same-sex couples the equal dignity and respect that is a core element of the constitutional right to marry." Id. at 434-35.
Second, the court held that "[t]he current statutory assignment of different names for the official family relationships of opposite-sex couples on the one hand, and of same-sex couples on the other" violated the equal protection clause in article I, section 7 of the California Constitution. Id. at 435, 452-53. The court determined that the State had no interest in reserving the name 'marriage' for opposite-sex couples; "the historic and well-established nature of this limitation" could not itself justify the differential treatment, and the court found no reason that restricting the designation of 'marriage' to opposite-sex couples was necessary to preserve the benefits of marriage enjoyed by opposite-sex couples or their children. Id. at 450-52. The court noted specifically that "the distinction in nomenclature between marriage and domestic partnership cannot be defended on the basis of an asserted difference in the effect on children of being raised by an opposite-sex couple instead of by a same-sex couple," because "the governing California statutes permit same-sex couples to adopt and raise children and additionally draw no distinction between married couples and domestic partners with regard to the legal rights and responsibilities relating to children raised within each of these family relationships." Id. at 452 n.72. Restricting access to the designation of 'marriage' did, however, "work[ ] a real and appreciable harm upon same-sex couples and their children," because "providing only a novel, alternative institution for same-sex couples" constituted "an official statement that the family relationship of same-sex couples is not of comparable stature or equal dignity to the family relationship of opposite-sex couples." Id. at 452. Consequently, the court determined that withholding only the name 'marriage' from same-sex couples violated the California Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
The court remedied these constitutional violations by striking the language from the marriage statutes "limiting the designation of marriage to a union 'between a man and a woman,' " invalidating Proposition 22, and ordering that the designation of 'marriage' be made available to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Id. at 453. Following the court's decision, California counties issued more than 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Five California residents-defendants-intervenors-appellants Dennis Hollingsworth, Gail J. Knight, Martin F. Gutierrez, Hak-Shing William Tam, and Mark A. Jansson (collectively, "Proponents")-collected voter signatures and filed petitions with the state government to place an initiative on the November 4, 2008, ballot. Unlike Proposition 22, this was an initiative constitutional amendment, which would be equal in effect to any other provision of the California Consti- tution, rather than subordinate to it. The Proponents' measure, designated Proposition 8, proposed to add a new provision to the California Constitution's Declaration of Rights, immediately following the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses. The provision states, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." According to the official voter information guide, Proposition 8 "[c]hanges the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California." Official Voter Information Guide, California General Election (Nov. 4, 2008), at 54. Following a contentious campaign, a slim majority of California voters (52.3 percent) approved Proposition 8. Pursuant to the state constitution, Proposition 8 took effect the next day, as article I, section 7.5 of the California Constitution.
Opponents of Proposition 8 then brought an original action for a writ of mandate in the California Supreme Court. They contended that Proposition 8 exceeded the scope of the People's initiative power because it revised, rather than amended, the California Constitution. The opponents did not raise any federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8 in the state court. The state officials named as respondents refused to defend the measure's validity, but Proponents were permitted to intervene and do so. Following argument, the court upheld Proposition 8 as a valid initiative but construed the measure as not nullifying the 18,000-plus marriages of same-sex couples that had already been performed in the State. Strauss v. Horton, 207 P.3d 48, 98-110, 119-22 (Cal. 2009).
The court also explained Proposition 8's precise effect on California law: "[T]he measure carves out a narrow and limited exception to the[ ] state constitutional rights [articulated in the Marriage Cases], reserving the official designation of the term 'marriage' for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law, but leaving undisturbed all of the other extremely significant substantive aspects of a same-sex couple's state constitutional right to establish an officially recognized and protected family relationship and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws." Id. at 61; see also id. at 75. In other words, after Proposition 8, "[s]ame-sex couples retain all of the fundamental substantive components encompassed within the constitutional rights of privacy and due process, with the sole (albeit significant) exception of the right to equal access to the designation 'marriage.' " Id. at 116. Proposition 8 accomplished this result not by "declar[ing] the state of the law as it existed when the Marriage Cases decision was rendered, but instead [by] establish[ing] a new substantive state constitutional rule that became effective once Proposition 8 was approved by the voters." Id. at 115; see also id. at 63.
Two same-sex couples-plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo-filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in May 2009, after being denied marriage licenses by the County Clerks of Alameda County and Los Angeles County, respectively. Alleging that Proposition 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, they sought a declaration of its unconstitutionality and an injunction barring its enforcement. The City and County of San Francisco ("San Francisco") was later permitted to intervene as a plaintiff to present evidence of the amendment's effects on its governmental interests. The defendants-the two county clerks and four state officers, including the Governor and Attorney General-filed answers to the complaint but once again refused to argue in favor of Proposition 8's constitutionality. As a result, the district court granted Proponents' motion to intervene as of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) to defend the validity of the proposition they had sponsored.*fn2
The district court held a twelve-day bench trial, during which it heard testimony from nineteen witnesses and, after giving the parties a full and fair opportunity to present evidence and argument, built an extensive evidentiary record.*fn3 In a thorough opinion in August 2010, the court made eighty findings of fact and adopted the relevant conclusions of law. Perry v. Schwarzenegger (Perry IV), 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010).*fn4 The court held Proposition 8 unconstitu-tional under the Due Process Clause because no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry. Id. at 991-95. The court also determined that Proposition 8 violated the Equal Protection Clause, because there is no rational basis for limiting the designation of 'marriage' to opposite-sex couples. Id. at 997-1003. The court therefore entered the following injunction: "Defendants in their official capacities, and all persons under the control or supervision of defendants, are permanently enjoined from applying or enforcing Article I, § 7.5 of the California Constitution."*fn5 Doc. 728 (Permanent Injunction), Perry v. Schwarzenegger, No. 09-cv-02292 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2010).*fn6
Proponents appealed immediately, and a motions panel of this court stayed the district court's injunction pending appeal.
The motions panel asked the parties to discuss in their briefs, as a preliminary matter, whether the Proponents had standing to seek review of the district court order. After considering the parties' arguments, we concluded that Proponents' standing to appeal depended on the precise rights and interests given to official sponsors of an initiative under California law, which had never been clearly defined by the State's highest court. We therefore certified the following question to the California Supreme Court:
Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the State's interest in the initiative's validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.
Perry v. Schwarzenegger (Perry V), 628 F.3d 1191, 1193 (9th Cir. 2011). The state court granted our request for certification in February 2011, and in November 2011 rendered its decision. See Perry v. Brown (Perry VII), 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d 499( 2011). We now resume consideration of this appeal.*fn7
We begin, as we must, with the issue that has prolonged our consideration of this case: whether we have jurisdiction over an appeal brought by the defendant-intervenor Proponents, rather than the defendant state and local officers who were directly enjoined by the district court order.*fn8 In view of Proponents' authority under California law, we conclude that they do have standing to appeal.
For purposes of Article III standing, we start with the premise that "a State has standing to defend the constitutionality of its [laws]." Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 62 (1986). When a state law is ruled unconstitutional, either the state or a state officer charged with the law's enforcement may appeal that determination. Typically, the named defendant in an action challenging the constitutionality of a state law is a state officer, because sovereign immunity protects the state from being sued directly. See Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157-58 (1908); L.A. County Bar Ass'n v. Eu, 979 F.2d 697, 704 (9th Cir. 1992). In such cases, if a court invalidates the state law and enjoins its enforcement, there is no question that the state officer is entitled to appeal that determination. See, e.g., Ysursa v. Pocatello Educ. Ass'n, 555 U.S. 353 (2009) (Idaho Secretary of State and Attorney General appealed decision striking down an Idaho law on First Amendment grounds); Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000) (Nebraska Attorney General appealed decision holding unconstitutional a Nebraska abortion law). Moreover, there is no reason that a state itself may not also choose to intervene as a defendant, and indeed a state must be permitted to intervene if a state officer is not already party to an action in which the constitutionality of a state law is challenged. See 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b); Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.1; cf. Fed. R. App. P. 44(b). When a state does elect to become a defendant itself, the state may appeal an adverse decision about the constitutionality of one of its laws, just as a state officer may. See, e.g., Caruso v. Yamhill County ex rel. County Comm'r, 422 F.3d 848, 852-53 & n.2 (9th Cir. 2005) (sole appellant was the State of Oregon, which had intervened as a defendant in the district court). In other words, in a suit for an injunction against enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional state law, it makes no practical difference whether the formal party before the court is the state itself or a state officer in his official capacity. Cf. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 114 n.25 (1984) (discussing the "fiction" of Ex parte Young); see also Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 269-70 (1997) (same).
Whether the defendant is the state or a state officer, the decision to assert the state's own interest in the constitutionality of its laws is most commonly made by the state's executive branch-the part of state government that is usually charged with enforcing and defending state law. See, e.g., Ysursa, 555 U.S. at 354 (Idaho state officers represented by state Attorney General); Caruso, 422 F.3d at 851 (State of Oregon represented by Oregon Department of Justice). Some sovereigns vest the authority to assert their interest in litigation exclusively in certain executive officers. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 516-19; 28 C.F.R. § 0.20.
The states need not follow that approach, however. It is their prerogative, as independent sovereigns, to decide for themselves who may assert their interests and under what circumstances, and to bestow that authority accordingly. In Karcher v. May, 484 U.S. 72 (1987), for example, the Supreme Court held that the State of New Jersey was properly represented in litigation by the Speaker of the General Assembly and the President of the Senate, appearing on behalf of the Legislature, because "the New Jersey Legislature had authority under state law to represent the State's interests." Id. at 82 (citing In re Forsythe, 450 A.2d 499, 500 (N.J. 1982)).*fn9 Prin- ciples of federalism require that federal courts respect such decisions by the states as to who may speak for them: "there are limits on the Federal Government's power to affect the internal operations of a State." Va. Office for Protection & Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S. Ct. 1632, 1641 (2011). It is not for a federal court to tell a state who may appear on its behalf any more than it is for Congress to direct state law-enforcement officers to administer a federal regulatory scheme, see Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997), to command a state to take ownership of waste generated within its borders, see New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992), or to dictate where a state shall locate its capital, see Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559 (1911). Who may speak for the state is, necessarily, a question of state law. All a federal court need determine is that the state has suffered a harm sufficient to confer standing and that the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the court is authorized by the state to represent its interest in remedying that harm.
Proponents claim to assert the interest of the People of California in the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which the People themselves enacted. When faced with a case arising in a similar posture, in which an Arizona initiative constitutional amendment was defended only by its sponsors, the Supreme Court expressed "grave doubts" about the sponsors' standing given that the Court was "aware of no Arizona law appointing initiative sponsors as agents of the people of Arizona to defend, in lieu of public officials, the constitutionality of initiatives made law of the State." Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona (Arizonans), 520 U.S. 43, 65-66 (1997). Absent some conferral of authority by state law, akin to the authority that the New Jersey legislators in Karcher had as "elected representatives," the Court suggested that proponents of a ballot measure would not be able to appeal a decision striking down the initiative they sponsored. Id. at 65.
 Here, unlike in Arizonans, we do know that California law confers on "initiative sponsors" the authority "to defend, in lieu of public officials, the constitutionality of initiatives made law of the State." The California Supreme Court has told us, in a published opinion containing an exhaustive review of the California Constitution and statutes, that it does. In answering our certified question, the court held that when the public officials who ordinarily defend a challenged state law or appeal a judgment invalidating the law decline to do so, under article II, section 8 of the California Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Elections Code, the official proponents of a voter-approved initiative measure are authorized to assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity, enabling the proponents to defend the constitutionality of the initiative and to appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative.
Perry VII, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 536-37. "[T]he role played by the proponents in such litigation," the court explained, "is comparable to the role ordinarily played by the Attorney General or other public officials in vigorously defending a duly enacted state law and raising all arguable legal theories upon which a challenged provision may be sustained." Id. at 525. The State's highest court thus held that California law provides precisely what the Arizonans Court found lacking in Arizona law: it confers on the official proponents of an initiative the authority to assert the State's interests in defending the constitutionality of that initiative, where the state officials who would ordinarily assume that responsibility choose not to do so.
We are bound to accept the California court's determination. Although other states may act differently, California's conferral upon proponents of the authority to represent the People's interest in the initiative measure they sponsored is consistent with that state's unparalleled commitment to the authority of the electorate: "No other state in the nation carries the concept of initiatives as 'written in stone' to such lengths as" does California. People v. Kelly, 222 P.3d 186, 200 (Cal. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, California defines the initiative power as "one of the most precious rights of our democratic process," and considers "the sovereign people's initiative power" to be a "fundamental right" under the state constitution. Assoc. Home Builders v. City of Livermore, 557 P.2d 473, 477 (Cal. 1976); Brosnahan v. Brown, 651 P.2d 274, 277 (Cal. 1982); Costa v. Super. Ct., 128 P.3d 675, 686 (Cal. 2006). As the California Supreme Court explained in answering our certified question, "[t]he initiative power would be significantly impaired if there were no one to assert the state's interest in the validity of the measure when elected officials decline to defend it in court or to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure." Perry VII, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 523. The authority of official proponents to "assert[ ] the state's interest in the validity of an initiative measure" thus "serves to safeguard the unique elements and integrity of the initiative process." Id. at 533.
It matters not whether federal courts think it wise or desirable for California to afford proponents this authority to speak for the State, just as it makes no difference whether federal courts think it a good idea that California allows its constitution to be amended by a majority vote through a ballot measure in the first place. Cf. Pac. States Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118 (1912) (holding non-justiciable a Guaranty Clause challenge to Oregon's initiative system). The People of California are largely free to structure their system of governance as they choose, and we respect their choice. All that matters, for federal standing purposes, is that the People have an interest in the validity of Proposition 8 and that, under California law, Proponents are authorized to represent the People's interest. That is the case here.
In their supplemental brief on the issue of standing, Plaintiffs argue for the first time that Proponents must satisfy the requirements of third-party standing in order to assert the interests of the State of California in this litigation. Litigants who wish "to bring actions on behalf of third parties" must satisfy three requirements. Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 410-11 (1991). First, they "must have suffered an 'injury in fact,' thus giving [them] a 'sufficiently concrete interest' in the outcome of the issue in dispute." Id. at 411. Second, they "must have a close relation to the third party." Id. Third, "there must exist some hindrance to the third party's ability to protect his or her own interests." Id. Plaintiffs contend that Proponents cannot satisfy these requirements with respect to the State of California as a third party.
The requirements of third-party standing, however, are beside the point: the State of California is no more a "third party" relative to Proponents than it is to the executive officers of the State who ordinarily assert the State's interest in litigation. As the California Supreme Court has explained, "the role played by the proponents" in litigation "regarding the validity or proper interpretation of a voter-approved initiative measure . . . is comparable to the role ordinarily played by the Attorney General or other public officials in vigorously defending a duly enacted state law." Perry VII, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 525. When the Attorney General of California appears in federal court to defend the validity of a state statute, she obviously need not satisfy the requirements of third-party standing; she stands in the shoes of the State to assert its interests in litigation. For the purposes of the litigation, she speaks to the court as the State, not as a third party. The same is true of Proponents here, just as it was true of the presiding legislative officers in Karcher, 484 U.S. at 82. The requirements of third-party standing are therefore not relevant.
 Nor is it relevant whether Proponents have suffered a personal injury, in their capacities as private individuals. Although we asked the California Supreme Court whether "the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative's validity or the authority to assert the State's interest in the initiative's validity," Perry V, 628 F.3d at 1193 (emphasis added), the Court chose to address only the latter type of interest. Perry VII, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 515 ("Because [our] conclusion [that proponents are authorized to assert the State's interest] is sufficient to support an affirmative response to the question posed by the Ninth Circuit, we need not decide whether, under California law, the official proponents also possess a particularized interest in a voter-approved initiative's validity."). The exclusive basis of our holding that Proponents possess Article III standing is their authority to assert the interests of the State of California, rather than any authority that they might have to assert particularized interests of their own. Just as the Attorney General of California need not satisfy the requirements of third-party standing when she appears in federal court to defend the validity of a state statute, she obviously need not show that she would suffer any personal injury as a result of the statute's invalidity. The injury of which she complains is the State's, not her own. The same is true here. Because "a State has standing to defend the constitutionality of its [laws]," Diamond, 476 U.S. at 62, Proponents need not show that they would suffer any personal injury from the invalidation of Proposition 8. That the State would suffer an injury, id., is enough for Proponents to have Article III standing when state law authorizes them to assert the State's interests.
To be clear, we do not suggest that state law has any "power directly to enlarge or contract federal jurisdiction." Duchek v. Jacobi, 646 F.2d 415, 419 (9th Cir. 1981). "Standing to sue in any Article III court is, of course, a federal question which does not depend on the party's . . . standing in state court." Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797, 804 (1985). State courts may afford litigants standing to appear where federal courts would not,*fn10 but whether they do so has no bearing on the parties' Article III standing in federal court.
 State law does have the power, however, to answer questions antecedent to determining federal standing, such as the one here: who is authorized to assert the People's interest in the constitutionality of an initiative measure? Because the State of California has Article III standing to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8, and because both the California Constitution and California law authorize "the official proponents of [an] initiative . . . to appear and assert the state's interest in the initiative's validity and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure when the public officials who ordinarily defend the measure or appeal such a judgment decline to do so," Perry VII, 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d at 505, we conclude that Proponents are proper appellants here. They possess Article III standing to prosecute this appeal from the district court's judgment invalidating Proposition 8.
We review the district court's decision to grant a permanent injunction for abuse of discretion, but we review the determinations underlying that decision by the standard that applies to each determination. Accordingly, we review the court's conclusions of law de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. See Ting v. AT&T, 319 F.3d 1126, 1134-35 (9th Cir. 2003); Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a).
Plaintiffs and Proponents dispute whether the district court's findings of fact concern the types of "facts"-so-called "adjudicative facts"-that are capable of being "found" by a court through the clash of proofs presented in adjudication, as opposed to "legislative facts," which are generally not capable of being found in that fashion. "Adjudicative facts are facts about the parties and their activities . . . , usually answering the questions of who did what, where, when, how, why, with what motive or intent"-the types of "facts that go to a jury in a jury case," or to the factfinder in a bench trial. Marshall v. Sawyer, 365 F.2d 105, 111 (9th Cir. 1966) (quoting Kenneth Culp Davis, The Requirement of a Trial-Type Hear- ing, 70 Harv. L. Rev. 193, 199 (1956)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Legislative facts," by contrast, "do not usually concern [only] the immediate parties but are general facts which help the tribunal decide questions of law, policy, and discretion." Id.
It is debatable whether some of the district court's findings of fact concerning matters of history or social science are more appropriately characterized as "legislative facts" or as "adjudicative facts." We need not resolve what standard of review should apply to any such findings, however, because the only findings to which we give any deferential weight- those concerning the messages in support of Proposition 8 that Proponents communicated to the voters to encourage their approval of the measure, Perry IV, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 990-91-are clearly "adjudicative facts" concerning the parties and " 'who did what, where, when, how, why, with what motive or intent.' " Marshall, 365 F.2d at 111. Aside from these findings, the only fact found by the district court that matters to our analysis is that "[d]omestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage"-that the difference between the designation of 'marriage' and the designation of 'domestic partnership' is meaningful. Perry IV, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 970. This fact was conceded by Proponents during discovery. Defendant-Intervenors' Response to Plaintiffs' First Set of Requests for Admission, Exhibit No. PX 0707, at 2 ("Proponents admit that the word 'marriage' has a unique meaning."); id. at 11 (Proponents "[a]dmit that there is a significant symbolic disparity between domestic partnership and marriage"). Our analysis therefore does not hinge on what standard we use to review the district court's findings of fact. Cf. Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162, 168 n.3 (1986) ("Because we do not ultimately base our decision today on the [validity or] invalidity of the lower courts' 'factual' findings, we need not decide the 'standard of review' issue"-whether "the 'clearly erroneous' standard of Rule 52(a) applies to the kind of 'legislative' facts at issue here.").
We now turn to the merits of Proposition 8's constitutionality.
The district court held Proposition 8 unconstitutional for two reasons: first, it deprives same-sex couples of the fundamental right to marry, which is guaranteed by the Due Process Clause, see Perry IV, 704 F. Supp. 2d at 991-95; and second, it excludes same-sex couples from state-sponsored marriage while allowing opposite-sex couples access to that honored status, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, see id. at 997-1003. Plaintiffs elaborate upon those arguments on appeal.
Plaintiffs and Plaintiff-Intervenor San Francisco also offer a third argument: Proposition 8 singles out same-sex couples for unequal treatment by taking away from them alone the right to marry, and this action amounts to a distinct constitutional violation because the Equal Protection Clause protects minority groups from being targeted for the deprivation of an existing right without a legitimate reason. Romer, 517 U.S. at 634-35. Because this third argument applies to the specific history of same-sex marriage in California, it is the narrowest ground for adjudicating the constitutional questions before us, while the first two theories, if correct, would apply on a broader basis. Because courts generally decide constitutional questions on the narrowest ground available, we consider the third argument first. See Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 217 (1995) (citing Ashwander v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 297 U.S. 288, 347 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring)).
 Proposition 8 worked a singular and limited change to the California Constitution: it stripped same-sex couples of the right to have their committed relationships recognized by the State with the designation of 'marriage,' which the state constitution had previously guaranteed them, while leaving in place all of their other rights and responsibilities as partners- rights and responsibilities that are identical to those of married spouses and form an integral part of the marriage relationship. In determining that the law had this effect, "[w]e rely not upon our own interpretation of the amendment but upon the authoritative construction of [California's] Supreme Court." Romer, 517 U.S. at 626. The state high court held in Strauss that "Proposition 8 reasonably must be interpreted in a limited fashion as eliminating only the right of same-sex couples to equal access to the designation of marriage, and as not otherwise affecting the constitutional right of those couples to establish an officially recognized family relationship," which California calls a 'domestic partnership.' 207 P.3d at 76. Proposition 8 "leaves intact all of the other very significant constitutional protections afforded same-sex couples," including "the constitutional right to enter into an officially recognized and protected family relationship with the person of one's choice and to raise children in that family if the couple so chooses." Id. at 102. Thus, the extent of the amend-ment's effect was to "establish[ ] a new substantive state constitutional rule," id. at 63, which "carves out a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights," by "re-serving the official designation of the term 'marriage' for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law," id. at 61.*fn11
Both before and after Proposition 8, same-sex partners could enter into an official, state-recognized relationship that affords them "the same rights, protections, and benefits" as an opposite-sex union and subjects them "to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses." Cal. Fam. Code § 297.5(a). Now as before, same-sex partners may:
* Raise children together, and have the same rights and obligations as to their children as spouses have, see Cal. Fam. Code § 297.5(d);
* Enjoy the presumption of parentage as to a child born to either partner, see Elisa B. v. Super. Ct., 117 P.3d 660, 670 (Cal. 2005); Kristine M. v. David P., 135 Cal. App. 4th 783 (2006); or adopted by one partner and raised jointly by both, S.Y. v. S.B., 201 Cal. App. 4th 1023 (2011);
* Adopt each other's children, see Cal. Fam. Code § 9000(g);
* Become foster parents, see Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 16013(a);
* Share community property, see Cal. Fam. Code § 297.5(k);
* File state taxes jointly, see Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 18521(d);
* Participate in a partner's group health insurance policy on the same terms as a spouse, see Cal. Ins. Code § 10121.7;
* Enjoy hospital visitation privileges, see Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1261;
* Make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, see Cal. Prob. Code § 4716;
* Be treated in a manner equal to that of a widow or widower with respect to a deceased partner, see ...