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The California Constitution Requires That Proposition 8 Stands: Pro-family Leader

Tue Nov 18, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

SACRAMENTO, CA, November 18, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - With their vote under attack by liberal county governments, homosexual activists and the ACLU, many Californians are wondering whether they’ve lost the right to amend the constitution. The answer is no, according to the constitution itself and the legislative and legal history regarding the difference between an "amendment" and a "revision," according to one prominent pro-family leader 

"An amendment is when the voters make changes to one or more of the provisions of the constitution," said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a leading California pro-family organization. "In contrast, a revision is when the legislature and the voters both agree to make numerous, sophisticated changes to the entire constitution. If the constitution were a house, a revision would be an extensive remodel where you knock down all the inside walls and repaint everything; an amendment would be a minor change, like replacing a lamp or a chair in the family room."

Proposition 8, approved by the voters, added Article 1, Section 7.5 to the California Constitution, reading, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The City of San Francisco alleges Prop. 8 was a constitutional revision requiring two-thirds legislative approval. Yet in July, the California Supreme Court refused to hear these same arguments when the City of San Francisco urged the court to strip Prop. 8 from the ballot.

"This summer, the Supreme Court unanimously refused to hear the claim that Proposition 8 was a revision," said Thomasson, who is seeking to intervene in the Prop. 8 lawsuits on behalf of the voters. "The Court disagreed that Prop. 8 is ‘a substantial alteration of the entire constitution.’"

"The Supreme Court knows the difference between a single-subject, voter-initiated amendment and a multi-issue, legislature-initiated, whole-scale revision that alters many sections of the state constitution," said Thomasson. "The first clue is revisions always require a two-thirds legislative vote, but voter-initiated amendments such as Prop. 8 are directly added to the constitution by the people. Thank God that the state constitution tells us ‘all political power is inherent in the people,’ that ‘they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require’"

In 1978, the California Supreme Court distinguished between a revision of the constitution and a mere amendment of the constitution, stating that a revision referred to a "substantial alteration of the entire constitution, rather than to a less extensive change in one or more of its provisions" (Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization, 22 Cal.3d 208).

  The California Supreme Court last ruled on this issue in 1991, rejecting similar arguments that the City of San Francisco is using now.

The California Constitution itself states that the people may amend the Constitution by the initiative process, where they collect signatures, qualify an amendment to the Constitution, and pass it. No legislative "permission" is required for voter-initiated amendments such as Proposition 8. "The electors may amend the Constitution by initiative," says Article 18, Sec. 3 of the Constitution.

Explaining the clear distinction between an amendment and a revision is University of California, Berkeley Department of Public Science Chairman Emeritus Dr. Eugene C. Lee, who, in 1991, wrote:

"Specific changes to the California constitution may be proposed by amendment. Substantial changes may be proposed by a constitutional convention or by the legislature as constitutional revisions. Regardless of their origin, all changes must be approved by a majority of the electorate voting on the issue. Legislative amendments, the method most commonly used, require a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature. Initiative amendments may be placed on the ballot by a petition of registered voters equal in number to 8 percent of the total vote cast in the preceding gubernatorial election. By explicit language in the constitution concerning initiatives and by court interpretation with respect to measures arising in the legislature, amendments are required to be limited in scope. As far back as 1894, the California Supreme Court distinguished between a revision of the constitution and a mere amendment thereof (Livermore v. Waite, 102 Cal. 113). As reiterated in 1978, the court held that a revision referred to a ‘substantial alteration of the entire constitution, rather than to a less extensive change in one or more of its provisions’ (Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization, 22 Cal.3d 208)."


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