Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Fight Over Prop 8

On November 4th, California voters passed Prop 8. This proposition changed California law, and made it illegal for same-sex couples to marry. Right-wing fundamentalists across the country celebrated their apparent victory. But the celebration was short-lived, because opponents of the proposition filed suit and asked the California Supreme Court to overturn the new law.

Then last month, Attorney General Brown (pictured) surprised many people by siding with the opponents of Prop 8. Brown reasoned that the California constitution contained certain inalienable rights, including the right to privacy. He went on to state that California courts have already decided that the right to marry was included in the right to privacy.

That meant that Prop 8 had removed an inalienable right from a class or group of people. It was Brown's contention that it was unconstitutional for voters to deny an inalienable right to anyone. It was a brilliant bit of legal reasoning, and may well result in Prop 8 being overturned.

Yesterday, the supporters of Prop 8 filed their response to Brown with the California Supreme Court. Frankly, the response sounds weak. Their response said, "The people have the final word on what the California Constitution says. The practical result of the Attorney General's theory is that the people can never amend the Constitution to overrule judicial interpretations of inalienable rights."

Is this the best they could do? Do they really believe that voters have the right to deny inalienable rights to anyone they want to? Do they believe voters have the right to deny equal rights to African-Americans or Hispanics? How about women or the elderly? This is just a silly argument!

Before they filed such a ridiculous answer with the court, they really should have looked up the meaning of "inalienable" in the dictionary. According to the Oxford American Desk Dictionary, it means "untransferable, nonnegotiable, inviolable, sacrosanct, unchallengeable, absolute".

That seems pretty clear to me. An inalienable right is just what Brown said it was -- a right that voters cannot deny to any group or class of people. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of homosexuals, they are entitled to the same inalienable rights as all other citizens.

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