Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican candidate, has promised to defend Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. His Democratic opponent, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, says she will not challenge a federal court ruling that found it unconstitutional.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Irvine Law School and a supporter of same-sex marriage, said if the next attorney general defends Proposition 8, it would "significantly" delay a federal appeals court decision and probably influence it.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in August that Proposition 8 violated the federal Constitution. The measure's supporters have appealed, but they may lack legal authority to appeal.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown could appeal the ruling but are not doing so. The appeals court could let Walker's decision stand because no one with legal authority has challenged it.
Although a deadline for appeals has passed, Chemerinsky said the 9th Circuit "might be willing" to permit a new attorney general's intervention. At the least, the attorney general-elect could file a brief in favor of Proposition 8.