Monday, March 2, 2009

The Attorney General and Same-Sex Marriage

The biggest disappointment for many of us last year was Proposition 8, a ballot measure deliberately designed to discriminate against certain people based simply upon the nature of their consensual realtionships and sexual identity. Prop 8, which flies in the face of an earlier ruling by the California Supreme Court, passed by roughly the same slim margin that Prop 4, a measure that would have infringed on the reproductive privacy rights of young women, lost. That illustrates how the use of the initiative process as an arbiter over civil rights can become a capricious injustice. Most informed observers agree that the loss was due to the failure on the part of Prop 8’s political opponents to frame the issue as one of individual civil rights, in the face of rhetoric by proponents depicting it as a minority entitlement.

With the issue suffering defeat in the political arena, where it should never have been put in the first place, the battle now moves back to the Judiciary. As Americans, we are all guaranteed the freedoms of expression and association. As Californians, we also enjoy a basic right to privacy. All of these are exemplified in the institution of marriage, particularly where it intersects with the civil obligations of those who decide to start a family.

By framing the appeal against Prop 8 along these issues, AG Jerry Brown deserves our gratitude for a frank and honest move not only to protect established rights, but to also ensure that the oft-maligned and hyper-political initiative process is no longer used to infringe on individual rights guaranteed by law.