BY Christopher Lisotta
September 15 2009 11:30 AM ET
“There’s no limit to the number of times the California constitution
can be amended, or amended on a particular topic,” says David B. Cruz,
a law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School
of Law. “There is also no limit on the number of times an amendment can
According to Cruz, there are a few ways to short-circuit what could be a decades-long battle over same-sex marriage in
the Golden State.
One option would be changing the California constitution so that the initiative amendment power cannot be
specifically used to strip the right to marry from same-sex
couples. Activists might be able to pull that off by pushing a ballot
initiative that would limit ballot initiatives, “so basically it would
put limits on itself,” Cruz says.
Solomon suggests the
possibility of an initiative that would make it harder to change the constitution by raising the bar from a simple majority of voters to a
two-thirds vote. But Cruz says the “initiative for an
initiative” approach has its limits in California and may produce
Marriage equality proponents would then
have to spend the money and time to pass two initiatives instead of
one. In addition, Cruz worries that a ballot measure that requires a
two-thirds vote for amendments could create a protracted legal fight
over whether the initiative was not actually an amendment but instead a
revision to the constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote of both
state legislatures for passage. Cruz also noted that there is no
guarantee California voters would curtail their own powers at the
Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan policy think tank
Center for Governmental Studies and an expert on political reform in
California, thinks getting voters to limit their power is unlikely.
“When you ask the public if they have more confidence in the initiative
process or the legislative process, they almost always say the
initiative process,” Stern says, “so it would be very difficult, for
example, to abolish it or to curtail what can be in initiatives.”
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