Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on the California Supreme Court's Decision

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of California upholding Proposition 8 and simultaneously stating that the ~18,000 legal gay and lesbian marriages performed last year will stay just that: legal marriages. While this is not the decision I would have liked the Court to make, my sense is that it is perhaps the best decision they could have made. (Disclaimer: I am a legally ignorant layperson in the Midwest. I am not trained in law, much less the law of the California; heck, I don't even know how to get a driver's license in California.)

Proposition 8 was approved by 52% of the people of California. The constitution of that state does permit amendments based solely on majority vote of the people. Do I think that is a dumb policy? Hell, yes. But does my opinion of the policy change anything? Hell, no. The Court essentially made the same statement about its own opinion in its decision published today:
In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it.
One measure that might be used to justify the claim that California's constitution is too easy to amend is to compare the number of times it has been amended with that of other states whose constitutions require more than popular majority to be changed. My husband recently pointed out that, while the constitution of his home state of Iowa has been amended only 36 times since 1857, the constitution of California has been amended "500 times by referendum and about 40 times by initiatives since its adoption in 1879." That means California's constitution is changed an average of 4.1 times each year--roughly 17.8 times as fast as Iowa's constitution, which has changed at a rate of 0.23 amendments per year..

I'll be interested to see if the legacy of Prop 8 will include more than just the unprecedented surge of support for gay marriage we have seen this year--perhaps it will spark an additional change in California--one that will make the constitutional amendment process more thoughtful and deliberative than the present system.

Congrats to all the married California couples who will stay that way. And to the couples waiting to be married--I hope their wait will be a short one. I fully expect that one of the several amendments Californians will make to their constitution in 2010 will be a repeal of Prop 8 and a popular embrace of full marriage equality.

I'll close with a beautiful montage I found online today. Gotta love the photos in this--I expect the campaign for Prop #? in 2010 will include many more adorable couples such as these :-)

hat tips: Joe.My.God., More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality, and the Bible, and the man I love


Topher said...

Aaah, cute video.

Intrepid Wanderer said...

You get a driver's license at the DMV. Duh. :-)