On Vanguard Radio last night, the Vanguard spoke to Elizabeth Gill Staff Attorney from the ACLU in San Francisco and Natalie Wormeli from the Yolo County ACLU. They informed the Vanguard that the central argument that will be made comes down to the fact that the California Constitution does not permit the fundamental constitutional rights of a minority to be stripped away by a simple majority vote.
“The Court has a solemn responsibility to enforce our state constitution and to protect the rights of all people, regardless of popular opinion. This case isn’t just about marriage, and it’s certainly not just about gay and lesbian couples. If the Court strikes down Proposition 8, it will be protecting the civil rights of all Californians.”
According to NCLR:
“The California Constitution establishes two ways that it can be altered. A substantial change to the principles or basic structure of the constitution, called a “revision,” requires the involvement of the legislature and a more deliberative process. A less substantial change, called an “amendment,” can be enacted by a simple majority vote of the people.
The California Supreme Court should strike down Proposition 8 because it is, in fact, a revision. The principle of equal protection, which prevents the majority from oppressing minority groups, is central to our constitution and our democratic system of government. Proposition 8 would limit that fundamental principle of equality for LGBT Californians and undermine the very purpose of equal protection for everybody.”
Ms. Gill informed the Vanguard last night, that because of the constitutional ramifications that go well beyond the issue of Marriage Equality a number of other civil rights groups have joined in the lawsuit or filed amicus briefs including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California State Conference of the NAACP, Equal Justice Society, MALDEF, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.; prominent women’s groups; and a coalition of religious groups led by the California Council of Churches, the Anti-Defamation League, among others. According to NCLR, “The Court deferred consideration of the petitions submitted by the civil rights groups, women’s groups, and religious groups, and invited those groups to submit amicus briefs instead.”
According to Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the NCLR:
“Proposition 8 jeopardizes not just the right of same-sex couples to marry, but the rights of all Californians to be treated as free and equal citizens of our state. Our Constitution is based on the principle that majorities must respect minority rights. But if a majority can change the Constitution to take away a fundamental right from one historically disadvantaged minority group, then it can selectively strip fundamental rights from any group. Our system of government will have changed from one that respects minority rights to one in which the power of the majority is all but unlimited.
Equal protection for all citizens is the hallmark of American democracy. If upheld, Prop. 8 would undermine that central, defining guarantee and the unprecedented freedom that it has enabled us to enjoy. That is what is at stake in this case.”
Karin Wang, from the Asian Pacific American Legal Center sees a threat against not just same sex couples, but against all Californians.
“The real threat of Prop. 8 is not just against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Californians, it is against all Californians. A core purpose of the California Constitution is to ensure that the law treats all people equally, including minority groups. If upheld, Prop. 8 will set a dangerous precedent, where a simple majority vote is able to strip away the fundamental rights of a protected minority group. As an Asian American and a civil rights lawyer, this possibility frightens me.”
Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California:
“Our state Constitution was created to ensure equal treatment under the law for every Californian. Prop 8 changes that fact by taking away a fundamental freedom from one particular group and mandating government discrimination against a minority. We hope the Court upholds the Constitution’s promise of equality.”
State Attorney General Jerry Brown has taken the somewhat unusual step of opposing Proposition 8.
“As California’s Attorney General, I believe the Court should strike down Proposition 8 for remarkably similar reasons — because it unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and deprives them of the fundamental right to marry.”
In an op-ed yesterday he asks:
“The case touches the heart of our democracy and poses a profound question: can a bare majority of voters strip away an inalienable right through the initiative process? If so, what possible meaning does the word inalienable have?”
The Court will hear oral arguments today. They will then have 90 days under California to issue a ruling. That means that by the first week in June we will know the fate of this law. In the meantime, 18,000 Gay and Lesbian couples who were legally wed prior to November 5, 2008 will be waiting with baited breath.
—David M. Greenwald reporting.