Why is the STATE court involved in a FEDERAL case? because the 9th District Court of Appeals has two questions before it: one, how to address the finding of Judge Vaughn Walker that Prop8 is unconstitutional to LGBT citizens, and second, whether anyone has STANDING to appeal Judge Walker's decision.
Technically, because Prop8 was voted into law, the responsibility for defending it in court rests with the state of California. But neither the governor nor attorney general wants to defend it, because they agree it is unconstitutional. So the Prop8 proponents stepped it.
The Federal court is deferring to the State court to explain whether, under state law, the proponents have the right to appeal.
From the LA TImes:
Depending on the [state] court’s ruling, the 9th Circuit could either dismiss the Proposition 8 appeal on procedural grounds -- limiting the case’s effect to California -- or rule on federal constitutional questions that would affect same-sex marriage throughout the country.
UpdateA lot of fuss about very little. What they decided was.... they will take up the question. (They could have decided to ignore it). Wow. The notoriously slow SCoCal will now deliberate further, and probably won't even hold a hearing until fall 2011.
The delay here, while frustrating, means that repealing prop8 AT THE BALLOT BOX in 2012 is a much surer way to get marriage back in CA than waiting for the appeals process to work itself out.