Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proposition 8: Decision by California's Supreme Court

Its History:

This is the California Proposition that passed last November which prevents same sex couples from legally marrying in the state of California.

Get this, only 41.5 percent of Californians approved this ammendment to the state constitution. How was this done? It is because it was done according to the state initiative system. This was pointed out by rossl at DailyKos yesterday morning.

Now, it did pass with 52.3 percent of the vote, but only 79.4 percent of the voters turned out for the vote. So, 41.5 percent were able to change the state constitution. This is a shame. The United States Constitution is almost impossible to change, but California, as in several other states with an initiative system, makes it too easy to change the state constitution. By contrast, DailyKos points out, Nevada requires voters to approve any amendment change twice in successive elections. It is only made law after passing a second time.

Subsequently, the state Supreme Court began to look at the change, because they are the final arbiter of the meaning of the state Constitution, and Proposition 8 might logically conflict with the equal protection clause. Equal protection would require the Constitution to offer the same rights to same sex couples as it offers to hetero couples. Thus, Prop 8 and the equal protection clause can be seen to conflict with each other. This requires a decision by the state Supreme Court.

The Ruling Today:

A little while ago, the court handed down their 6-1 vote, rejecting the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8.

Their decision rested on the "narrow" conflict, redefining the word "marriage" to pertain only to opposite-sex couples. They held that Proposition 8 did not repeal any other aspect of same sex life. It left intact their right to choose a life partner, and their right to privacy, and due process. In this decision, the majority held that the scope of the issue was whether or not the people of California had the right to change the state Constitution under the provisions of the initiative process.

They unanimously agreed that those same-sex couples who married legally in California before November 5, 2008, would continue to have the advantages, disadvantages and rights of their marriages.

The Dissenting Opinion:

Justice Moreno explained that there is no "narrow" or "limited" exception to equal protection, adding that you can't promise equal treatment to some, or "almost equal" treatment. This is fundamentally different from truly equal treatment.

From the news release:

"Granting a disfavored minority only some of the rights enjoyed by the majority is fundamentally different from recognizing...that they must be granted all of those rights."

Justice Moreno further pointed out that this weakened the state Constitution's ability to protect any disfavored minority against the majority.

Isn't it interesting that this ruling would be announced today?

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