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Oral Arguments on
Prop. 8 Begin March 5

Oral Arguments on
Prop. 8 Begin March 5

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The California supreme court will begin to hear oral arguments on March 5 that will decide the fate of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

The California supreme court will begin to hear oral arguments on March 5 that will decide the fate of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state.

The legal challenge is brought by groups like the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union, who are arguing that Prop. 8 is invalid because the people of California have established safeguards that prohibit the underlying principles of the California constitution from being changed by a simple majority vote (Prop. 8 passed with just 52% of the vote). By taking away a right from one group, the lawsuit argues, Prop. 8 violates the most basic principle of our government: that all people are entitled to equal treatment under the law.

California attorney general Jerry Brown -- who has voiced interest in running for governor of the Golden State -- is also asking the court to invalidate Prop. 8 on the grounds that certain fundamental rights, including the right to marry, are inalienable and cannot be put up for a vote.

On January 15, 43 friend-of-the-court briefs -- from bar associations, religious groups, and legal scholars -- urging the court to invalidate Prop. 8 were filed, arguing that Prop. 8 drastically alters the equal-protection guarantee in California's constitution and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.

In May 2008 the California supreme court held that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal-protection clause of the California constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians. Prop. 8 eliminated this fundamental right only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU filed this challenge on November 5, representing Equality California, whose members include many same-sex couples who married between June 16 and November 4, 2008, and six same-sex couples who want to marry in California. The California supreme court has also agreed to hear two other challenges filed on the same day: one filed by the City and County of San Francisco (joined by Santa Clara County and the City of Los Angeles, and subsequently by Los Angeles County and other local governments); and another filed by a private attorney.

The California supreme court must issue its decisions within 90 days of oral arguments. (Neal Broverman, Advocate.com)

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