More than 40 state legislators, including Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President pro Tem Don Perata, incoming Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Speaker Emeritus Fabian Núñez, today filed a friend of the court brief in the case to void Prop 8, claiming it should be invalidated because it was not enacted under the proper procedures for changing the state Constitution.
“The citizens of California rely on the Legislature and the courts to safeguard against unlawful discrimination by temporary, and often short-lived, majorities,” said the legislators. “Our state’s few deviations from this duty have proven, with the perspective of historical distance, to be the most abhorrent chapters in our State’s history… The Legislative Amici urge this Court to prevent the momentary passions of a bare majority from compromising the enduring constitutional promise of equal protection under the law. Proposition 8’s radical change to our constitutional protections cannot be considered a mere ‘amendment.’ The California Constitution — ‘the ultimate expression of the People’s will’ — requires the involvement of the Legislature in a constitutional revision of this magnitude.”
“I am joining more than 29 members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus in supporting this brief,” said Speaker Bass. “The inalienable right to equal treatment under the law must be protected and upheld.”
“I join this brief to overturn Proposition 8 not to thwart the will of the people, but to ensure that the California Constitution’s most cherished principle – equality for all under the law – is upheld,” said Sen. Steinberg.
“An underlying purpose of the constitution is to protect the basic rights of minorities from the majority,” said Senate President pro Tem Don Perata. “The drafters of proposition 8 turned this principle on its head and for the first time in our state history facilitated the writing of discrimination into the constitution. This is a radical and dangerous precedent to set.
“Proposition 8 radically revises our constitutional structure: It singles out a minority group for unequal treatment, precludes our courts from protecting basic rights, and prevents the Legislature from exercising our legal responsibilities,” said Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles). “I join my colleagues in urging the Supreme Court to overturn this discriminatory initiative.”
The friend-of-the-court brief submitted by the legislators supports a petition filed last week in the Supreme Court of California by six same-sex couples, seeking to preserve the fundamental right to marry by stopping the enforcement of Proposition 8. The petition points out that fundamental changes to California’s constitution cannot be made by a simple majority of the voters. Instead, California’s constitution – the ultimate expression of the will of the People of California – says that the fundamental rights of minority groups can only be done away with if 2/3rds of the legislators vote to submit the change to the People or to a constitutional convention. The petition says, and the legislators agree, that this requirement in California’s constitution protects all Californians from the risk of having their fundamental rights taken away by a simple majority vote.