Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California State Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8

Below is a re-posting of my comments just after the November 2008 election. This morning the California Supreme Court announced its six-to-one decision upholding Proposition 8, yet not invalidating the eighteen thousand same-sex weddings performed after June 16, 2008 and before the November 4, 2008 election. What a curious state of affairs; but this could be the grounds for an appeal.


Sadly, but not unexpectedly, California State Proposition 8 passed by a clear majority – 52 percent to 48 percent. I say not unexpectedly, because millions of dollars from the Mormon Church poured into California for slick, misleading television ads. The purpose of Prop 8 was “to enshrine bigotry in the state’s constitution by preventing people of the same sex from marrying. The measure was designed to overturn May’s State Supreme Court decision, which made California the second state to end that exclusion of same-sex couples. Massachusetts did so in 2004. The firmly grounded ruling said that everyone has a basic right ‘to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice,’ and found California’s strong domestic partnership statute to be inadequate.” So proclaimed the New York Times editorial this morning.

It continued: “We wish that Tuesday’s vote of 52 percent to 48 percent had gone the other way. But when those numbers are compared with the 61 percent to 39 percent result in 2000, when Californians approved the law that was overturned by their Supreme Court, it is evident that voters have grown more comfortable with marriage equality.”

As I wrote on October 19 with my Blog posting 
Ballot Initiatives, Amendments & Taxes, the major issue for me is procedural. I think it is completely out of kilter that it takes a two-thirds super-majority to pass an ordinary California State Budget, yet it requires only a majority of a single citizen’s vote to amend the state constitution, and in this case take away a civil right. In the federal constitution, one of the major objectives of the Bill of Rights is to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

A curious sidebar: although Great Britain still has no written constitution, the precedent for our own Bill of Rights came from the 1689 English Bill of Rights, a result of the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. My Schola friend, Sam Smith, referred to it as the “Bloodless Revolution,” but I would contend that name wasn’t used until after the bloody French Revolution of 1789 and particularly the “Terror” of 1793-1794. (Refer to my September 21 Blog posting 
Evolution of Meaning and Two Flip-Flops.)

Still, we’ve made progress. Thirty years ago we celebrated the defeat of Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in California's public schools and came on the heels of a highly explosive conservative campaign in Dade County, Florida to repeal one of the first gay rights ordinances in the U.S. With Anita Bryant as their spokesperson, the initiative temporarily passed. I remember how thrilled we were with the defeat of Proposition 6 and celebrated with a march in the Castro. Only a few weeks later we marched again with a candlelight procession down Market Street to City Hall after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk— and that was only days after the horror of Jonestown!

I heard on NPR this morning that there have been disruptive marches in Los Angeles in opposition to passage of Proposition 8—also, that there has been a legal filing to the California Supreme Court to overturn the ballot initiative. One had been filed before the election to remove it from the ballot, but the court decided to defer until after the election. I think there could, in fact, be valid judicial reasons to overturn Prop 8, but the State Supreme Court has now let itself be subject to even greater rightwing criticism if it rules against the ballot initiative after the fact. It would have been much cleaner to act before. Again, I strongly assert that ballot initiatives passed by a simple majority are no fair or proper way to amend any constitution!


No comments:

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)