The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 Tuesday, ending months of legal debate concerning the constitutionality of banning gay marriage.
Since Prop 8’s passage last November, the court has been faced with several suits — filed by both gay couples and local California governments — that challenged the law’s validity. Of the suits, three were accepted by the Court and heard together. The challengers questioned the legality of the Constitutional revision, the possible violation of the separation of powers doctrine and its effect on the same-sex marriages performed before adoption of Prop 8.
The Court struck down all three suits in a 6-1 vote, but unanimously decided that the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that occurred prior to Nov. 5 are still valid. In the majority opinion, the justices maintained that because Proposition 8 received a majority vote, it is a legal constitutional revision as opposed to an amendment, which requires legislative action and a larger majority.
The Court declared that their decision to uphold the proposition does not affect any citizen’s ability to choose a life partner or have a “committed, officially recognized and protected family relationship” or their rights to equal protection. Instead, the Court stated that Prop 8 merely narrows the use of the term “marriage.”
Justice Carlos Moreno, however, filed a dissenting opinion, saying he deemed the proposition an “unlawful amendment of the California Constitution.” He went on to write that Prop 8 is discriminatory and represents an instance of the majority depriving a minority of fundamental equality.
“Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment for all,” he wrote, according to the Court’s news release. “Promising treatment that is almost equal is fundamentally different from ensuring truly equal treatment. “Granting a disfavored minority only some of the rights enjoyed by the majority is fundamentally different from recognizing, as a constitutional imperative, that they must be granted all of those rights.”
United States Congresswoman Lois Capps, a self-proclaimed opponent of Prop 8 and Santa Barbara’s local representative, said that the initiative process in California is inherently flawed and that the Court’s decision was an act of discrimination.
“Many of us felt like the Court would see this clearly as discrimination,” Capps said. “It’s very disappointing to see the Court react in this way.”
While supporting the Court’s decision to allow certain couples to maintain their marriage, Capps found some elements of the verdict unfair.
“It just kind of rubs the salt in the wound,” Capps said. “What makes one couple inferior to [another]? It’s just a matter of which day they made the decision.”
On campus, organizations such as the Queer Commission and Queer Student Union said they view Proposition 8 as an attack on equal rights.
Janelle Mungo, a third-year psychology and sociology major and student representative for the Queer Commission, said that student groups are uniting to continue the fight against Prop 8.
“We’re trying to fuel our anger into action,” Mungo said. “We’re trying to take this bad verdict and make it into something positive.”
In response to the Court’s decision, students organized a rally at Storke Plaza last night, which included a campus march and culminated with several speakers.
However, fourth-year political science major and ex-chairman of UCSB’s College Republicans Ross Nolan, said he agrees with the Court’s decision and feels that the measures taken by the challengers were inappropriate.
“They’ve got to stop trying to backdoor our democracy and using judiciary review to create laws,” Nolan said. “[They need to] take it to the voters. The case against Prop 8 was not strong. If they bring a compelling case to the people and they vote against it, that’s fine. … Convince me, convince the voters. Don’t bring it to the court.”
Chris Rodd, a first-year student and founder of UCSB’s chapter of “Yes on Equality,” said that a number of student activists are promoting a petition to have an appeal of Prop 8 on the ballot for 2010. In order for the petition to pass, Rodd said that 700,000 signatures must be obtained by August 17.