California Proposition 8 supporters yesterday filed legal briefs in the ongoing battle in the California Supreme Court over the constitutionality of California Proposition 8 that restored the traditional definition of marriage (one man and one woman) by California Constitutional Amendment last November.
Gay-marriage opponents filed legal briefs Monday accusing California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown of having “invented an entirely new theory,” one that “fails at every level,” in his quest to find a reason to invalidate Proposition 8, which passed with 52% of the vote in November.
“The people have the final word on what the California Constitution says,” lawyers for the Protect Marriage Coalition wrote. “The practical result of the attorney general’s theory is that the people can never amend the Constitution to overrule judicial interpretations of inalienable rights.”
The filing, which was co-written by Whitewater prosecutor and Pepperdine Law School Dean Kenneth Starr, came in response to a brief filed two weeks ago by the attorney general in which Brown surprised legal experts with a novel theory to argue that Proposition 8 should be invalidated.
Brown’s theory, Starr wrote, is “utterly without foundation in this court’s case law” and “is not only unprecedented but contradicts the most basic understanding of the role of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy.”
The attorney general has a legal duty to uphold state laws, and Brown, though he personally supports same-sex marriage, had pledged to defend Proposition 8 after gay-rights activists and California cities filed lawsuits challenging it the day after the election.
But in a move that outraged supporters of Proposition 8 and took even gay-rights activists by surprise, Brown’s brief instead urged the court to toss the proposition, declaring that “the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification.” Brown argued that the California Constitution protects the right to marry as inalienable.
Legal experts said Starr and the Protect Marriage coalition had made a strong counter-argument in their filing Monday.
Santa Clara University Law professor Gerald Uelmen, an expert on the state high court, said it “hits the nail on the head.”
“If you think of the Constitution as a compact between the people and those who govern us, to say the people have no power to amend a court’s ruling simply because the court . . . says this is an inalienable right — I think that is pretty far out.”
All of the legal filings before the California Supreme Court are here.
The Protect Marriage Coalition legal brief in response to California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s brief is here (PDF).
The California Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments in March and render a ruling sometime this late spring or early summer.
Jerry Brown, Kenneth Starr and California Proposition 8