How propositions work and don't work in California
Aug 5, 2010
Does this decision to block Prop 8 overturn a majority of voters? Yes, 52.3%. But, whatever one's leanings from ballot to ballot, one must remember: we Californian voters are unpredictable: 187 (stopping illegal immigrants from government services) and 227 (overturning supposedly bilingual education) also were fought by liberal courts, if predictably, along with a later voter-backed ban on race-biased state hiring and college admissions. 187 was blocked by progressive courts, the other two contentious ones weren't. Another proposition backed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to fund stem-cell research even when it was prohibited by the Federal government also passed, showing this individual streak in state voters.
Compare the current impasse over state medical marijuana legalization vs. the Feds that Prop 19 legalizing all marijuana this fall may (or may not, eventually and legally) supersede. The majority passed legalizing medical marijuana years ago but this was blocked in Federal court and continues to be blocked. I expect if 19 passes that conservatives will block it in turn. Liberal as California veers, there's a strong independent streak that enables GOP-backed, self-funded tycoons from corporate life (and actors!) to run for governor and US Senate, even if Reagan and Arnold aside they aren't able to win. We'll see this November given the anti-incumbent mood allegedly in the air if that changes.
It does frustrate me how propositional voting, instituted in Golden State reformer Hiram Johnson's populist anti-trust fight against robber barons during the Progressive Era of 100 years ago, is thwarted and funded by special interests from churches to corporations for hidden agendas. The propositions were meant idealistically to express the will of the common people who lacked legislative support for more humane laws to pass. The propositions gave voters a chance to get heard, even if Big Business and Big Government fought to suppress their protests. So, even if as with Prop 8 I favor its rejection, I understand when my vote's been on the winning side that gets halted after the game's over how annoying this might be-- to seem to win the game and yet lose it after the final score.
Still, our democracy's not a sports contest, and the refs from the bench wear robes and bang gavels. They make the rules, despite what the constituency cheers for, if the voters clash with the Constitution as ultimate play book to settle any disputes. That's the rules of the judicial game. We the players may lose. We may argue with the refs and appeal, but instant replays don't always happen and judgments tend to rest in those with the official uniforms, not those on the field or even sometimes in the ballot box.
However, I would not predict the progressive agenda always gets its way. Many Californians aren't in lockstep with NPR or Fox although you'd forget this if following the MSM. "Decline to State" voters are the emerging bloc of moderates and skeptics, even in a (where I live) Democratic gerrymandered city in a state that's tilting inevitably, given demographics I reckon, into the blue.
Interesting take on how Jehovah's Witnesses ruling in 1943 protecting minority freedoms influenced Judge Walker's overturning of the Prop 8 passage: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2...-06-engardio05_ST_N.htm
Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008, state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $39.9 million and $43.3 million, respectively, becoming the highest-funded campaign on any state ballot that day and surpassing every campaign in the country in spending except the presidential contest. After the elections, demonstrations and protests occurred across the state and nation. Same-sex couples and government entities filed numerous lawsuits with the California Supreme Court challenging the proposition's validity and effect on previously administered same-sex marriages. In the Strauss v. Horton case, the court upheld Proposition 8, but allowed existing same-sex marriages to stand (under the Grandfather clause principle). The ruling was overturned by a lawsuit in federal courts on August 4, 2010. The decision will likely be appealed.