Judge Nixes Suit over Wording of California Marriage Proposition: Critics Argue Wording Biases Voter
By Peter J. Smith
SACRAMENTO, California, August 8, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by marriage advocates alleging the California Attorney General’s rewording of the November marriage ballot initiative prejudices voters against it.
Judge Timothy Frawley of the Sacramento County Superior Court ruled today that Attorney Gen. Jerry Brown in no way diminished the accuracy or impartiality of Proposition 8 by adding into the attached title and summary that the initiative "eliminates (the) right of same-sex couples to marry."
That phrase made marriage defenders cry foul, since Brown’s new language differs from the original proposition 1.1 million Californians petitioned to put on the ballot in November, which would amend the state constitution "to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Over 61% of California voters approved that same language in 2000 in a marriage super-statute that four justices of the state Supreme Court dismissed earlier this summer. However, negative language often sounds the death knell of many propositions, since voters generally shy away from choosing to "eliminate" rights.
Voters will decide "yes" or "no" on the fate of the marriage initiative this November 4 based on Brown’s new title, "Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The old title read simply, "Limit on Marriage."
Frawley ruled that Brown did not violate the responsibilities of his office, since his retooling of Proposition 8 reflected correctly that the initiative would rescind rights invented for homosexual couples by the state Supreme Court’s May 15 decision.
However an appeal is already in the works as proponents of Proposition 8 and ProtectMarriage.com have stated they will challenge the decision upholding the negative wording, which they see as a continuation of Brown’s earlier attempt to get the Court to prevent the initiative from appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Advocates of the marriage initiative say that in the last 50 years of ballot measures, Proposition 8 is the only one among 250 initiatives for which an Attorney General has assigned a negative verb for its Title & Summary.
"We believe the Attorney General has attempted to influence voters against this measure," said Proposition 8 legal counsel Andrew Pugno. "It is our goal to ensure that voters have a fair opportunity to decide this measure for themselves on Election Day."
Time is running short since the ballots are supposed to be ready to print by 5PM Monday.
"I think there is no question the reason why the Attorney General put the negative language in there is to torpedo the proposition, because people generally don’t vote for negative propositions," Mat Staver, chairman of the public advocacy group Liberty Counsel told LifeSiteNews. "What in fact happens in this proposition is that it preserves marriage and family, and preserves the stability of society."
He continued, "I believe that notwithstanding the negative language the people of California will know that this is about protecting marriage and pass the amendment despite resistance by the courts and the attorney general."
See related coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
California Attorney General Heavily Biases Ballot Initiative Wording in Favor of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’