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Judge Overturns California's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

A California judge overturned California's Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage on August 4, 2010.

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How propositions work and don't work in California

  • Aug 5, 2010
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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.

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October 09, 2010
Quite an impressive write up. Nice one; I have read this several times over.
August 05, 2010
Very interesting piece, John, and you were fair on this tricky topic. I'm feeling the same way as @DevonCook. Even though the outcome was in favor of my personal beliefs this time, it's still frustrating because who knows when that's going to get overturned as well.  Thanks for sharing your perspective and those historical facts!
August 06, 2010
Appreciate the reply, Devora. I suspect as of this fall's election, I'll again be watching as 19 passes and then is blocked in court, as I predict.
August 05, 2010
Whichever side one took in this debate, these back and forth decisions certainly frustrate me!
August 05, 2010
As my comment shows to JR and my edited piece above, I understand, Devon!
August 05, 2010
Nice write up John. Gives some perspective on a timely and divisive issue. And anytime you can work "robber barons" into a review.... that's a plus in my book!
August 05, 2010
Thanks, JR. I hope I'm fair on a tricky topic. Whatever we choose per proposition, I understand the frustration of having your vote overturned in the interests of a larger legal and often morally contentious issue. I tried to give those outside California an insight into how this pioneering system evolved.
More Judge Overturns California's B... reviews
Quick Tip by . August 04, 2010
Yet another case of a judge overturning the will of the people and advancing the progressive agenda. This was to be expected and the people will respond in kind in November.
Quick Tip by . August 05, 2010
It's not the end of the fight, but it's definitely a good start. +1 for the LGBT movement & human rights.
Quick Tip by . August 04, 2010
I'm sure this isn't the end of this fight - but SO glad to see some progress made to end the H8!!! Yay!
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
Anyone voting this one down can go take a long walk off a short pier.
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
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
Quick Tip by . August 04, 2010
This is awesome, I hope it sticks. Was actually surprised it passed the first time
About the reviewer
John L. Murphy ()
Ranked #51
Medievalist turned humanities professor; unrepentant but not unskeptical Fenian; overconfident accumulator of books & music; overcurious seeker of trivia, quadrivia, esoterica.      … more
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About this topic


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.
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Politics, Human Sexuality, Human Rights, Prop 8, California Laws


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