All Eyes on State Supreme Court for Prop 8 Arguments

Both houses of the state Legislature passed resolutions this week endorsing the legal effort to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban.  This on the week the state Supreme Court takes up the issue.

Supporters said Proposition 8 should not have been placed on the November ballot through the initiative process. They said it represented a revision to the state Constitution because it stripped away existing rights and argue that only the Legislature can place such revisions before voters.

"We're talking about a radical revision to our Constitution," said Sen. Mark Leno, the San Francisco Democrat who sponsored the Senate resolution. "Do we have a constitutional democracy in California or do we have mob rule, where a majority of Californians can change the Constitution at any time?"

He equated it to the fight for racial equality decades ago. He noted that in 1964, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would have allowed landlords to discriminate against renters based on race.

Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote. By amending the state Constitution, it overturned a California Supreme Court decision last year that legalized same-sex marriage. It was the second time California voters have said marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Between the Supreme Court's decision last spring and the November election, about 18,000 gay couples married.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Thursday on lawsuits that seek to overturn Proposition 8. The lawsuits argue that the initiative was enacted improperly and is itself unconstitutional because it singles out a minority group for discrimination.


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Opponents said the initiative was a constitutional amendment and properly placed on the ballot.

"Voters did speak," said Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, who opposed the measure. "They spoke from their hearts, from their minds. And for me, I've got to respect that."

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, also opposed the Assembly resolution, saying it would send the state down a slippery slope. If the state allows gay marriage, DeVore said, it would have to allow polygamy because it could be argued as a First Amendment right.

"If you proceed down this path, you will open Pandora's box," he said.

The resolutions in each house were identical. They do not require action by the governor, but merely express the intent of the Legislature -- in this case to support the legal arguments against Proposition 8.

Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, said he does not expect the Supreme Court to consider the resolutions when it hears legal arguments this week. Because of gerrymandered legislative districts, he said the Legislature does not accurately reflect the will of the people.

"If Proposition 8 is overturned, it's essentially gutting the people's authority to amend the Constitution," Brown said. "I'm confident that the court will not overturn Proposition 8."

Leno said it was proper for the Legislature to pass the resolutions for legal reasons, as well as to express its objections to discrimination against same-sex couples.

The court's ruling will set a precedent specifying when constitutional.

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