The sponsors of ballot propositions can step in to defend their initiatives from legal challenges if the governor and attorney general refuse to do so, California’s highest court said Thursday.

“It’s good news of a sort for opponents of same-sex marriage,” CBS News senior legal analyst Andrew Cohen said, referring to how the decision affects Proposition 8, the state’s gay marriage ban. “The state court now has advised the federal appeals court that the supporters of Prop. 8 who want to appeal last year’s adverse ruling may do so, even though California’s attorney general and governor have backed out of the case.”

In short, Cohen said, the ruling answers a question that has been unanswered since August 2010, when a trial judge first stuck down the ban, and gives a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel a clear path to finally resolve the case on its merits.

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