Today the California Supreme Court rejected requests by same-sex marriage advocates to strike down Proposition 8, the ballot measure that democratically superseded an earlier decision by the California Supreme Court that redefined marriage to include same-sex unions in that state.
In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court interpreted the California Constitution to require that same-sex couples be allowed to obtain civil marriage licenses in California. Under a domestic partnership scheme, California law already provided same-sex couples almost all the state law benefits associated with civil marriage, but the California Supreme Court declared that constitutional principles entitled same-sex couples to use of the word “marriage” for their relationships.
Following that judicial decision – which Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Robert Alt called “the Mona Lisa” of activist legal opinions – certain Californians used an initiative procedure to put a constitutional amendment protecting marriage on the November 2008 ballot. That measure, known as Proposition 8, passed by a majority of votes and added a new, 14-word section to the California Constitution that defined marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.
After a majority of voters chose to support Proposition 8, same-sex marriage advocates attempted to circumvent the political process once again, this time by asking the California Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 8 after it had already passed. Same-sex marriage advocates surely held some measure of hope for success – after all, this was the same court that, in redefining marriage to include same-sex unions, had struck down an earlier initiative that made it California law to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage advocates apparently hoped that the court would once again be willing to override popular will and discover some basis to strike down Proposition 8, thus perpetuating same-sex marriage.
But, today, the California Supreme Court disappointed advocates of same-sex marriage by concluding that Proposition 8 was a valid exercise by California voters of their right to amend their constitution.
Though today’s decision means Proposition 8 stands as an important victory for the “7 million Californians who worked hard to protect marriage as the union of husband and wife”, the price of that success has been high. Many individuals and institutions that supported Proposition 8 have been targeted for reprisals and intimidation: some Prop 8 supporters have been pressured out of their jobs; some have had their businesses targeted for reprisals; churches have been vandalized; a copy of The Book of Mormon has been set on fire on the steps of a Mormon church; and suspicious white powder was sent to certain Mormon temples. Some individuals who supported Prop 8 have even received death threats.
Incidents like these reinforce predictions that redefining marriage to include same-sex unions will foster a climate of hostility toward the public expression by those who believe that marriage properly is limited to one man and one woman.
Following today’s decision upholding Proposition 8 – which also validates the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before Prop 8 passed – several recently-married same-sex couples reportedly “vowed they would commit acts of civil disobedience in response to the ruling”. One can only hope those acts of disobedience will be more “civil” than protests launched by other activists disappointed with the outcome of the political struggle to define marriage in California.