Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Bigotry II

I had not intended to write a follow up to Proposition 8: The New Bigotry until I read about the latest hypocrisy in the ongoing debate since the ballot initiative passed. Supporters of Proposition 8, so vocal about voter approval to amend the California State Constitution, now want the same Constitution to overturn another voter-approved initiative -- the Political Reform Act of 1974. They seem to believe that they can have it both ways and have asked the court to back them.

Proposition 8 added fourteen words to the Constitution of the State of California: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” California voters approved it by 52.3% of the November 4 vote. In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which defined “marriage as between a man and a woman,” by 61% of the vote. On May 15 last year, the California State Supreme Court declared that statute unconstitutional and legalized same-sex marriage in California.

The constitutionality of Proposition 8 is before the
California Supreme Court.

The amendments co-author Kenneth Starr represents its supporters in asking the court to uphold the Proposition. By the close of business on January 15, a number of groups filed
amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs to ad to Starr’s. Among them, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Family Research Council, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations filed briefs.

Of its legal filing, San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer wrote that under California Law, “Same sex couples who register as domestic partners will continue to have ‘the same rights, protections and benefits’ as married couples. Proposition 8 simply recognizes that there is a difference between traditional marriage and a same sex partnership.”

One can interpret that as supporting "separate but equal" treatment under the law which is unconstitutional. Nonetheless, Father Neiderauer's opinion is protected speech under the 1st Amendment.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown represents the measure’s opponents in asking the court to overturn the Proposition. Joining the opponents, the
League of Women Voters of California, the California Council of Churches, and the California Labor Federation have now asked the court to invalidate Proposition 8.

Of its amicus brief the California Council of Churches said, “ The brief argues that Proposition 8 poses a severe threat to the guarantee of equal protection for all and was not enacted through the constitutionally required process for such a dramatic change to the California Constitution.”

Google has weighed in. On its official company blog, the Internet search company joined other businesses in signing a brief in support of the lawsuits to overturn Proposition 8. “Denying employees basic rights isn't right, and it isn't good for businesses," Google General Counsel Kent Walker wrote. He added, “California's image has suffered since the divisive election.”

The Washington Post conservative scribe George Will also weighed in. In a
recent column he took to task Jerry Brown’s 111-page argument to invalidate Proposition 8. He wrote, “Passing laws by referenda is an imprudent departure from the core principle of republican government -- representation: The people do not decide issues, they decide who shall decide. But the right of Californians to make laws through the direct democracy of referenda is as firmly established as it is promiscuously exercised.” While I usually disagree with what George writes, I agree it puts the court where it should not be and agree about the promiscuous part.

You may say, “So far, so good. It’s now in the Court’s hands.” You would be correct and, in addition to all those briefs, amicus or otherwise, there is an
additional law suit to consider. That suit alleges that California’s Political Reform Act is unconstitutional. The Political Reform Act was adopted as a statewide initiative (Proposition 9) by an overwhelming vote of the electorate in 1974.

According to the
State of California, “the law's most fundamental purpose [is that] of ensuring that ‘receipts and expenditures in election campaigns should be fully and truthfully disclosed in order that the voters may be fully informed. . . .’” However, supporters of Proposition 8 have filed a lawsuit that seeks to keep the public from seeing the supporters’ campaign finance records, which are required under the post-Watergate law to be posted for 10-years.

Claiming that the reports have led to harassment of donors, they have asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional.

The First Amendment Coalition says that the suit probably will not succeed. According to the Coalition’s executive director, Peter Scheer, "The problem with their argument, of course, is that campaign finance laws, both at the state and federal level, have been litigated endlessly now since Watergate and the argument has, in one form or another, been rejected."

Still, it is amazing what can be done with data today. While the suits are being considered, much has been done with Proposition 8 supporter information. Not only is it a matter of public record, it can be found online on a
map. That is pretty darned amazing.

Incidentally, if you have not seen Jack Black in
Proposition 8 – the Musical, have a look.

As I wrote in my initial piece, it was “the effort to invalidate 18,000 gay marriages that changed my mind on writing about the issue to expose it as the sheer, unadulterated bigotry it is.” Adding hypocrisy makes it New Bigotry II. The courts will rule as early as March.

# # #
Originally published in Blogcritics Magazine on January 17, 2009.


Anonymous said...

Donors name should be kept public.

But the continued harassment, firing, blacklisting and intimidation of supporters of Proposition 8 will only further damage the credibility of Prop 8's opponents.

George Will's column was excellent on the subject. As he said:

"Brown's reasoning would establish an unassailable tyranny of a minority -- judges -- over any California majority."

- anon

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