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California legislature may officially oppose Proposition 8

by Michael Rogers

Fresh into the new legislative session, two resolutions have been introduced in two California state houses to put the legislature on record opposing the state's constitutional gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, and declaring it a revision to the Constitution improperly brought to popular vote.

Proposition 8, if it stands, will be the only initiative to successfully revoke a right from a targeted minority group in California. About 18,000 same-sex couples married in the state before it passed.

Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, both of San Francisco, brought their measures to their respective floors on Tuesday. The resolutions, drafted by representatives of Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, are co-authored by California Senator Christine Kehoe and Assemblyman John A. Perez, members of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, along with Senate Pro Tem Speaker Darrell Steinberg.

"Prop. 8 eliminates the fundamental right to marry from same-sex couples and allows a slim majority to take away the equal protections of a single minority group, which violates one of the fundamental and founding principles of our Constitution," Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors said in a statement. "That type of unprecedented change to the Constitution puts the rights of all Californians at risk, and it's critical in our system of checks and balances that the Legislature weigh in on such fundamental revisions to the Constitution."

In May, the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that denying civil marriage to one class of people violated the Constitution's promise of equal protection. The ruling invalidated a previously passed voter initiative which previously put the identical language of Proposition 8 into state statute. With the subsequent passage of Proposition 8 in November, the Supreme Court will consider several lawsuits that have since been filed.

"Proposition 8's revision to the California Constitution violates key structural checks and balances built into our legal system," Senator Leno added. "Overnight, the constitutional protections of thousands of tax paying, law abiding California citizens were stripped from them by a simple majority vote, without a prior two-thirds vote by both houses of the legislature, thereby trampling on their fundamental right to equal protection."

"Any major revision to the state Constitution should not be allowed to circumvent the legal system," said Assemblyman Ammiano. "The fact is, Proposition 8 was improperly instituted through the ballot process without legislative involvement. I am proud to author this crucial resolution urging the courts to right the social travesty of Proposition 8 and ensure any similar future measures are approached in an appropriate and legal manner."

A revision to the California Constitution, as opposed to an voter-driven amendment, requires that the state legislature review the proposed change and vote on a 2/3 margin to release it to the ballots for popular vote. One legal argument against Proposition 8 as it stands is that the change it would make amounts to a revision, whereas it was put on the ballots as an amendment without the proper legislative review. Governor Schwarzenegger, in September 2005 and August 2007, vetoed legislative efforts to affirm the marriage rights of same-sex couples. The Governor later spoke out against Proposition 8 and has stated his agreement with the Supreme Court on their May ruling.


Originally published on Tuesday December 2, 2008.

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