The earth's moving again in California. Results here.
The blog Cal Law, which focuses on California legal questions, suggests that if voters approve a new, constitutional ban on same sex marriage this November, the result could be the end of state-sanctioned marriage of any kind. Everyone would sign up for domestic partnerships, and the definition of marriage would be left up to the churches.
This seems a bit much to me, but the look for the anti-initiative/pro-gay marriage campaign to raise the question of whethre not only same sex marriages but also domestic partnerships could be at legal risk if the initiative fails. And the legal protections for gay couples that come with domestic partnerships are broadly popular in California.
Here's the ruling. Oregon's court doesn't go along with California's and decides to leave in place a 2004 voter-approved prohibition against same sex marriage.
But, you say, the LA Times poll shows a lead of 54-35 for the initiative to put a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution! The story even says, "Californians narrowly reject gay marriage." That's a misreading of the poll.
The problem for opponents of same sex marriage: initiatives with numbers like those six months before an election lose. (The rule of thumb is that you want to have at least 60 percent support at this time, because support almost always falls). "No" campaigns are easier to win than most, and this is a "no" campaign that will be well-funded, get lots of attention, and can point to a Supreme Court opinion written by Republicans. The more I think about it, the more the decision by the supreme court is exquisitely timed for those who support same-sex marriage. First off, the gay marriage supporters get to be on the "no" side of this measure, making their path easier. Second, the central conservative argument against the court's legaliziation of gay marriage -- "judges are making law!" -- is undercut by the fact that the voters are going to be able to vote on the question in November. And that timing will push the debate towards the human beings who want to get married. The bottom line: California voters may be about to do something very big.
CASINO INTERESTS DIVIDED ON COMPROMISE: It appeared that the Nevada teachers' unoin and casino interests had reached a compromise to avoid a casino tax ballot initiative and replace it with a hotel tax hike for education interests. It was a classic example of how to use the leverage of a ballot initiative to get what you want. But it turns out that not all casinos are happy with the deal. Specifically, the CEOS of the MGM Mirage, Boyd Gaming Company, and the Las Vegas Sands have expressed opposition. That means the new advisory ballot question and legislation on the compromise could face a strong no campaign. If defeated, it's possible the teachers' union could bring back the casino tax.
ARK GOV AGAINST IMMIGRATION INITIATIVE: Mike Beebe, the Democratic governor of Arkansas, announces his opposition a ballot initiative, now gathering signatures, that would deny public services to unauthorized immigrants. The endorsement in this race that I'd like to see is that of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose record as governor was pro-immigrant but who reversed himself as a presidential candidate, going so far as to question birthright citizenship for the children of unauthorized immigrants.
Below is the transcript, courtesy of Gov. Schwarzenegger's office, of an exchange he had with a questioner during a press conference Tuesday at the Environmental Defense Fund in San Francisco. The press event was about the environment and energy, but press questions went in a different direction. Schwarzenegger explains his public position on the anti-gay marriage initiative that appears headed to the November ballot. This shows the straddle the governor is doing on the issue, and offers a smart argument that the campaign against the initiative (that is, the campaign to preserve the newly elaborated right for gay couples to marry) might adopt. He's essentially saying that even if your own personal position is against gay marriage, you may not want to enshrine that in the state constitution. And that people may need to consider that there's an equal protection problem in denying the right to marry to gay couples. Bottom line: it's more coercive to ban gay marriage than to permit it, even if you don't like it. I suspect that may just be a winning political argument in California. It's an adult, nuanced position, and a responsible way for someone who wants to represent all the people to talk about it.
People have been asking your blogger the following question: what's the difference between working at the LA Times (I quit earlier this year) and being a fellow at New America? The answer is easy: technology. Because New America is a think tank, I have access to the Mind Reading Machine (MRM), a little-known device. This weekend, I got to use the machine for the first time, and I decided to point it at the brain of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last week was a big one for him and for California: a revised budget proposal that was widely panned, his renewed push to get his budget reform plan on the November ballot, and a state Supreme Court ruling permitting gay couples to marry in the state.
Here's what the Mind Reading Machine spit up:
"You know when something good happens at the wrong time? I can't admit this to anyone, but that's how I think about this gay marriage ruling.
I've got no problem with gay marriage, of course, but up til now I've done a great job of avoiding the issue politically. Many Republican voters didn't know my private views before the Supreme Court did its thing Thursday and I had to issue a statement saying I would uphold the court's decision. I had everyone confused because I came down hard on that big forehead [MRM EDITOR'S NOTE: forehead is an all-purpose insult favored by the governor], the mayor of San Francisco, for marrying those folks without any legal authority. If you look at what I said, I condemned him not for the marriages but for making up the law as he went along.
Here's a link to a short column I did for Fox & Hounds asking the question of whether California could benefit economically from being one of only two states to permit same-sex marriage. (Our businesses will have a recruiting advantage, people will want to move or vacation here, etc.). Anecdotal evidence: yesterday's Supreme Court ruling takes effect in 30 days. As it happens, that would be a Saturday in June, the most popular month for weddings. Speaking today with a Southern California wedding planner I know, she predicted that the date in question, June 14, will see the "largest American operation since D-Day."
ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE MEASURE HEADED FOR CALIFORNIA BALLOT: Or so its supporters say. This tracks though with information first reported here over the weekend that the initiative, at $2 per signature, had made the ballot. This is in spite of a well-organized blocking campaign by opponents. One wonders, however, why backers are spending their money. Some polls suggest that Californian is close to having a majority of citizens who support same-sex marriage, and the Republican governor has vowed to fight this.
$10 PER HOUR IN EUREKA: Signature gathering is about to begin on a new minimum wage ballot initiative that would guarantee $10 per hour to anyone working in the city of Eureka on California's northern coast.
MOMENTUM FOR COLORADO RIGHT TO WORK: That's according to its supporters, who are lining up endorsements. Business groups are backing it, but they should be wary. A frontal attack on labor is likely to unite the state's unions and turn out to be a setback for business interests. Exhibit A: California, the year 2005.
DOING FOR CALIFORNIA HEALTH WHAT THEY DID FOR CALIFORNIA CARS: Advocate Harvey Rosenfeld, author of 1988's Prop. 103 initiative on car insurance, and his organization, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights, is putting together an initiative on health care that aimed for the 2010, Capitol Weekly reports. It's a complicated measure and not yet fully cooked. But the insurance commissioner -- a post that has been heavily politicized (and a source of scandal in California in recent decades) -- would get new powers to oversee HMOs and regulate insurance and co-pays. It also would be easier to sue, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Rosenfeld is close to the trial lawyers.
TOO BIG A CONSTITUTION: One characteristic of states that have the initiative and use it often -- California, Oregon, Colorado -- is that they have very long constitutions. The people have the right to add to and change the constitution and so they do. (It goes with the territory; Switzerland, birthplace of direct democracy, has one of the longest constitutions in the world.) In Colorado, a special legislative committee is studying the state constitution to see if it can be cleaned up a bit. Face the State, a Colorado news and opinon web site, takes a look at the clean-up effort, and is skeptical.