Prop 8 Decision: A Word and a Question
I've just completed a very fast reading of the California Supreme Court decision this morning that upholds the Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage -- and also upholds the legality of the approximately 18,000 gay couples who got married in the state last year.
As readers of this blog know, I'm a strong supporter of same-sex marriage -- but I think the court did the right thing. The California constitution is different than the U.S. constitution. The people have strong powers to change the constitution through the ballot initiative. To overturn Prop 8 would have forced the justices to rewrite the state constitution and strip the people of those powers. I believe that California's initiative process should be less powerful and more flexible, but this wasn't the case to do something about it.
The decision makes plain that Prop 8's effect is confined to one word; marriage. The court writes that gay couples must continue to have all the rights and responsibilities of married couples. But their unions can't be called marriages, because of Prop 8.
Now, here's a question for same-sex marriage supporters, who quite rightly will now turn to drafting and qualifying an initiative for either the 2010 or 2012 ballot that would overturn Prop 8. What will be in your initiative? Specifically, same-sex marriage supporters would be wise -- politically and as a matter of policy -- to include strong language in their initiative protecting religious freedom. No church member or clergy member should be forced to change their faith in any way as a result of legalization of same-sex marriage. Including such a provision would not only be the right to do but also it would be smart politics. Prop 8's supporters fanned fears that legal same-sex marriage would infringe on how people practice their faith. An initiative to overturn Prop 8 should take that argument away.