Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Prop. 8...Zipping Right Along

Both sides apparently are looking for a win in the court challenges to Prop. 8 in California. The ballot initiative that redefined marriage, this time back to one-man/one-woman, there won on Nov. 4th with 52%.

This afternoon, the state Supreme Court agreed to decide three constitutional issues related to it. These are:
  • Does amending the constitution for this constitute a simple amendment or is it a weightier revision, which would require bicameral legislative approval?
  • Does it violate separation of powers by limiting judicial review?
  • What is the effect, if any, does it have on the roughly 36,000 who married since legalization of SSM in May?
By agreeing to hear the suits (apparently in a manageable lump to simplify this for everyone) the court is not promising a Christmas present. In judicial time, this is fast. All parties with standing will have until January 21st to submit their briefs. That likely means oral arguments in March. A decision should not be any earlier than June.

The San Francisco Chronicle collected the hopes of the various involved groups. Among those who want to stop SSM, an attorney for the sponsoring group, Protect Marriage, was confident the vote will withstand a challenge. Andrew Pugno said, "This is a great day for the rule of law and for the voters of California." He was pleased that the court refused to stay implementation of the amendment pending trial.

On the other side, various interests, including the city of San Francisco (and 10 other cities and counties) hope to have the court invalidate the vote. City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, "This goes far beyond same-sex marriage. It's about equal protection of the law for all Californians."

Equality California has more background. Arthur Leonard has his first take on it as well.

The Supreme Court's May decision ends up not being the key factor in the suits filed on narrow legal points. Then, the court defined homosexuals as a suspect class deserving legal protecting, which formally turned the marriage issue into a civil-right one. Before this, the state legislature had twice passed SSM, only to have the governor veto the new law. Now having lost repeatedly at both legislative and court levels, the anti-marriage equality side has all of its intent riding on the upholding of the initiative vote.

As in our podcast yesterday, when Ryan held forth on the intensity of public protest nationwide against this initiative vote, it certainly got people's attention, and likely not in the way the anti-SSM forces wanted. Stripping existing rights from any group of citizens seems on the face of it as un-American as you can get. Interestingly enough, the suits the high court there will hear in March attack just this brutal process that permits that.

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