All friends of democracy should be troubled by the behavior of California gay rights advocates in the aftermath of the election. They are asking the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8 on a technicality. The judiciary should decline this invitation to lawlessness.
The whole point of having a ballot initiative process is to allow voters the opportunity to take matters into their own hands when they feel ill-served by their elected officials. Proposition 8 originated in San Diego, in the aftermath of the City Council’s fall of 2007 decision to join the amicus briefs in the cases that ultimately imposed same sex marriage. The San Diego City Council went through the motions of holding public hearings. After several hours of public testimony on both sides, City Council members pulled out and read statements in support of joining the amicus briefs, statements that were obviously prepared well in advance of any public testimony.
Citizens realized that the hearings were a sham.
That episode of being ignored and, indeed, insulted by our elected officials stimulated the movement that became Proposition 8. A group of visionary San Diego citizens realized that they had to take matters into their own hands to protect their values. That is what the initiative process is for.
The Proposition 8 campaign was a genuine grass roots effort, with an estimated 100,000 volunteers. This was an outpouring of citizen participation, precisely what the Progressive Era founders of the initiative process hoped for.
“Yes on 8” was supported largely by small contributions: over 70,000 individuals contributed. By contrast, the “No on 8” side had large, high-profile contributions from millionaires and movie stars. We thought it was cheesy of the California Teachers Association to contribute a million dollars of their members’ dues money. But it was legal, and we didn’t complain.
On the other hand, the “No on 8” crowd is demanding that the Mormon Church lose its tax exempt status, since “Mormon money” turned the tide for Prop 8. One enterprising Associated Press reporter took the trouble to check the campaign finance records: the Mormon Church contributed a grand total of an in-kind donation of $2,078.97 to ProtectMarriage.com. The “Mormon money” was the combination of the small contributions of thousands of people.
So the gay lobby’s “progressive” position is this: if all the members of a tax exempt organization decide to contribute to the same political candidate or cause, they should lose their tax exemption. But people join groups, religious or otherwise, because they share its values. Members of the Sierra Club all contribute to the same causes, but no one is attacking their tax exemption. Singling out the Mormon Church is absolutely unfair and wrong.
The friends of lawlessness claim that Proposition 8 is a revision, not an amendment. Now is a fine time to tell us. This measure faced litigation before it was even put on the ballot. We argued over the language in the voter information guide. The Attorney General changed the language of the title of the amendment itself. The title of the amendment originally stated simply, “Defines marriage.” After Jerry Brown got finished with us, our amendment was described as “Eliminates the rights of same sex couples to marry.” That change in wording probably cost us several percentage points of voters, as the powers-that-be surely anticipated. If the gay lobby seriously believed that initiative was a “revision” instead of an “amendment,” they should have said so in July, before both sides spent over $70 million fighting it out in the electoral process.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that this is a desperate, last-ditch effort by a bunch of sore losers, who are blinded by their self-righteousness and infuriated that anyone dares to stand up to them. The plain fact of the matter is that the “Yes on Proposition 8” campaign won, in a David and Goliath type fight. The entire political Establishment, the Judiciary, the legislature, and the governor opposed us. All the daily newspapers opposed us. The gay lobby has academia and Hollywood on its side.
In spite of all that, the public sided with traditional man/woman marriage, by approximately the same margin as President-elect Barack Obama: 52% to 48%. Anyone who dislikes the outcome is free to put another amendment on the ballot.
That is, as long as the initiative process does not get debased by the Supreme Court overturning the results of a fair election. The Court should leave the initiative process in place, for future generations of Californians, of all political beliefs.