The Los Angeles Times is
reporting that California Attorney General Jerry Brown has reversed
course and will seek to have Proposition 8 – the constitutional
amendment approved by a slim majority of California voters in
November that bans gay marriage – invalidated.
Previously, Brown has said he would
defend the measure.
But in a filing to the state Supreme
Court on Friday, Brown called for the defeat of the gay marriage ban,
saying it “deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of
liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the
“Proposition 8 must be invalidated
because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish
fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification,”
he wrote. The filling came in response to three lawsuits filed by
gay rights groups, along with the cities of Los Angeles and San
“It's outrageous,” Frank Schubert,
campaign manager for Yes-on-8, told the Times.
Gay rights activist were clearly elated
by the turn of events. “His position demonstrates that he is a
leader of courage and conviction,” said Equality California
Executive Director Geoff Kors, who initially ran the campaign to
defeat the measure.
“We are very pleased that upon review
of the law, he has moved from his previous statements that he would
defend Prop 8,” Kors said in a statement.
Proponents of Proposition 8 also
surprised with the news that they had recruited Kenneth Starr, dean
of Pepperdine University's law school, to serve as lead counsel.
Starr will argue their case to the state Supreme Court.
Starr is the former independent counsel
who investigated President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater affair,
which led to the impeachment of Clinton in the House. The Senate,
however, acquitted him.
Pepperdine Law School is making a habit
of defending Proposition 8. Associate Professor of Law Richard
Peterson appeared in two pro-Prop 8 advertisements throughout the
In their filing, Proposition 8
proponents also revealed that they were seeking to nullify thousands
of gay and lesbian marriages performed during the May-to-November
period when gay marriage was legal in the state.
They wrote: “Proposition 8's brevity
is matched by its clarity. There are no conditional clauses,
exceptions, exemptions, or exclusions: 'Only marriage between a man
and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'”
“Its plain language encompasses both
pre-existing and later-created same-sex (and polygamous) marriages,
whether performed in California or elsewhere. With crystal clarity,
it declares that they are not valid or recognized in California.”
Gay groups called the idea of stripping
away legal gay marriages “mean-spirited.”
“The motivation behind this
mean-spirited and heart-breaking action should not be allowed to be
buried in legal brief,” Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage
Campaign, a grassroots group that ran several anti-Proposition 8 ads
independently of the official No-on-8 campaign, told CNN. “If
Proposition 8's sponsors plan to destroy lives, they should at least
have the courage to admit it publicly.”
Gay rights groups filed three lawsuits
challenging the validity of the gay marriage ban on November 5, the
day after Election Day. They argue that Proposition 8 is a revision
of the California Constitution. A constitutional revision requires
Legislative action before being sent to the voters. Proposition 8
was placed on the ballot by voter petition and is therefore illegal,
say gay marriage backers. Gay marriage opponents disagree.
“Petitioners' challenge depends on
characterizing Proposition 8 as a radical departure from the
fundamental principles of the California Constitution,” they wrote.
“But that portrayal is wildly wrong. Proposition 8 is limited in
nature and effect. It does nothing more than restore the definition
of marriage to what it was and always had been under California law
before June 16, 2008 – and to what the people had repeatedly willed
that it be throughout California's history.”
Protesters in California, made up of
grassroots gay activists and their allies, have been demonstrating
against the gay marriage ban, and the churches that heavily endorsed
it, since its passage on November 4. What influence, if any, their
actions will have on the court's decision remains to be seen. The
California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in March.