NewsTue May 26, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST
California Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban
By Peter J. Smith
SAN FRANCISCO, California (LifeSiteNews.com) - The California Supreme Court has rejected all constitutional challenges to Proposition 8, the voter-approved constitutional amendment to the state constitution that upholds the definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman. However the high court's ruling preserves intact the marriage licenses issued to 18,000 homosexuals by the state of California before November 5, 2008.
The justices voted 6-1 to uphold the amendment, which effectively bans same-sex "marriage," reversing a course that began last year in May, when the justices had voted 4-3 to throw out a California voter referendum passed in 2000. The referendum had passed by a hefty 61 percent to 32 percent majority.
In the 2008 general election, California voters approved Proposition 8 by a 52 percent to 48 percent majority. Prop. 8 stated: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
However, opponents of Proposition 8, including the state attorney general, Edmund "Jerry" Brown, argued that the amendment violated due process, equal protection clauses, and fundamental rights protected by the state charter.
In the 136-page majority opinion, Chief Justice Ronald M. George states the high court found homosexual couples, through civil unions, still possessed equal protection under the law and a constitutional right to "choose one's life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage."
The court said the people exercised through Proposition 8 their right to carve "a narrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights, reserving the official designation of the term 'marriage' for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law."
In their decision, the justices argued the main issue at hand in Proposition 8 was "the scope of the right of the people, under the provisions of the California Constitution, to change or alter the state Constitution itself through the initiative process."
Opponents of Proposition 8 had contended that the measure was passed improperly as an "amendment," and instead constituted a "revision" to the state constitution, which cannot be accomplished through the initiative process and instead require the involvement of the state legislature. However, the court rejected these arguments.
The justices also rejected Attorney General Jerry Brown's argument that Proposition 8 violated inalienable rights such as "fundamental liberty" or a "right to privacy" without compelling interest.
Nevertheless Justice Werdegar, in her own concurring opinion, said that although Proposition 8 did not bring about "such a broad change in the principle of equal protection," all branches of the state government "continue to have the duty … to eliminate the remaining important differences between marriage and domestic partnership, both in substance and perception."
In the meantime, the decision lets stand all marriage licenses given to same-sex couples between June 16 and November 4, 2008. That part of the decision has been criticized by defenders of Proposition 8, who point out that applying constitutional amendments only prospectively and not retroactively is not the norm for an amendment, as the high court insists.
"This part of the ruling makes little sense, because a constitutional amendment like this one means that going forward, that which happened in the past is no longer recognized," said Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, which helped represent the Campaign for California Families in defending Proposition 8. "When the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, slavery was abolished. Slave holders could not claim grandfather rights to own another person."
"If the licenses that were issued in this limited time frame remain valid, then what about licenses outside the state that were issued in this same period? If a person with such a license moves to California, can their license also be recognized? Of course, the answer to both questions should be 'No!'"
Nevertheless, the high court's ultimate decision to uphold the will of the people has elicited the praise of marriage and family advocates.
"We're grateful this court did not overturn the civil rights of all Californians to amend our own constitution," said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in a press release. "The 7 million Californians who worked hard to protect marriage as the union of husband and wife are breathing easier today."
"Marriage is worth protecting because it is the way we teach the next generation: children need mothers and fathers," stated Maggie Gallagher, the organization's president. "This victory for Prop 8 is a victory for children, for civil rights, and for the common good."
The decision resolves the challenges to Proposition 8 submitted in Strauss v. Horton, Tyler v. State of California, and City and County of San Francisco v. Horton.
The California Supreme Court decision can be found here.
See previous coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
California Democratic Legislators Urge Judges to Void Prop. 8
Victory: California Marriage Proposition 8 Passes in Historic Battle
California Supreme Court Imposes Homosexual 'Marriage' on State
California Supreme Court to Hear Anti-Prop. 8 Cases