LOS ANGELES -- A state ballot measure that changes the state Constitution to ban gay marriage violates the document's guarantee of equal protection, 40 bar and legal organizations said Thursday in announcing they filed a brief with the state Supreme Court.
The Los Angeles County and San Francisco bar associations are among the bar and legal organizations supporting the effort on behalf of same-sex marriage cases before the California Supreme Court, said Elizabeth J. Cabraser of the law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein.
"Proposition 8 creates the dangerous precedent that the legal and civil rights of minorities, indeed, of any individual or group, could be excised from the California Constitution and the courts would be powerless to reverse such discrimination," Cabraser said.
Backers of the measure maintain it is constitutional and have criticized efforts to overturn the will of voters through the courts.
But Los Angeles County Bar Association President Danette Meyers said the effort involves protecting the rights of minorities.
"The question whether a protected class may be barred from enjoying a fundamental right based on a bare majority vote is a matter of statewide importance," said Meyers. "The implications of the question are wide-reaching; if the majority can relegate disfavored minorities to second class citizenship via the initiative process, no fundamental rights are safe."
Russell S. Roeca, president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, echoed Meyers' concerns.
"Proposition 8 would shatter existing principles of equal protection and fundamental rights, as well as the judicial branch's role as final arbiter of these constitutional guarantees," Roeca said. "It constitutes a revision of the Constitution. As such, it may not be enacted by a simple majority of the voters."
Proposition 8, approved by voters in November, amends the state constitution to restrict marriage to between a man and a woman.
The ballot measure overturned a Supreme Court decision in May that struck down Proposition 22, a 2,000-ballot measure, also approved by voters, that banned same-sex unions. Over the summer, some 18,000 same-sex couples tied the knot, and the status of those unions are now in question.
Lawsuits have been filed to once again overturn the ban. Many gays are comparing the battle for equal marital rights to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Robin Tyler and Diane Olson -- the lesbian couple whose lawsuit prompted the state Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 22 -- are among those who had their attorney, Gloria Allred, file a writ with the high court challenging Proposition 8.