Constitution or Will of the People?

Peter Henderson at the Globe & Mail:

California Attorney General Jerry Brown unexpectedly joined the fight to reverse a ban on gay marriage, telling the state Supreme Court on Friday the voter-approved ban violates the constitutional right to liberty.

Proposition 8, which limits marriage to a union of man and woman, was approved by California voters last month. It stopped same-sex marriages and sparked a legal battle that has reached the state’s top court.

The same court opened the door to gay marriage in a ruling over the summer. Only two states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, now recognize same-sex marriage, and most have banned such unions. California’s ban struck a chord with gay advocates, sparking national protests.

Mr. Brown, a former California Democratic governor, said the California court’s summer ruling allowing gay marriage led the way to his argument.

“The right of same-sex couples to marry is protected by the liberty interests of the constitution,” Mr. Brown said by telephone, referring to the ruling. “If a fundamental right can be take away without any particular justification, then what kind of a right is it?”

Mr. Brown had not explained his constitutional interpretation before and had been expected to defend the ban.

“We are disappointed to see the attorney general refuse to defend the will of the voters as the law instructs him to do,” said Andrew Pugno, lawyer for the team defending the ban. In a sign Mr. Brown’s move is far from the end of the battle, Kenneth Starr, whose investigation of U.S. President Bill Clinton led to impeachment, joined the legal team defending the ban.   [more]

In my very humble opinion, neither a legislature nor a democratic vote can override the US Constitution.


From the San Francisco Chronicle, via Shakesville:

 The state Supreme Court plunged back into the same-sex marriage wars today, agreeing to decide the legality of a ballot measure that repealed the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed in California.

At the urging of both sponsors and opponents of Proposition 8, the justices voted 6-1 to grant review of lawsuits challenging the Nov. 4 initiative, with Justice Joyce Kennard dissenting.

However, the court refused, 6-1, to let same-sex marriages resume while it considers Prop. 8’s constitutionality. Justice Carlos Moreno cast the dissenting vote.

Approved by 52 percent of voters, Prop. 8 restored the definition of marriage – a union of a man and a woman – that the court had overturned May 15. Both Kennard and Moreno were in the majority of that 4-3 ruling.

The court agreed today to review two related arguments by opponents of Prop. 8 – that the measure exceeds the legal scope of a ballot initiative by allowing a majority to restrict a minority group’s rights, and that it violates the constitutional separation of powers by limiting judicial authority.

The justices also asked for arguments on whether Prop. 8, if constitutional, would nullify 18,000 same-sex weddings performed between when the court’s marriage ruling took effect in mid-June and Nov. 4. Attorney General Jerry Brown, who will defend Prop. 8 as the state’s chief lawyer, contends those marriages are legal, but sponsors of the initiative disagree.

The justices asked for written arguments to be submitted by Jan. 21. The court could hold a hearing as early as March, with a ruling due 90 days later.

Read the whole article here

Appalled by God & Obama

As a Canadian, my mind was somewhat blown (certainly not for the first time in this US election cycle!) when Barack Obama quoted from scripture in ending his nomination speech to the Democratic National Convention:

At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.  Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

I was raised in a “religious” tradition with which I no longer identify.  I believe I have a fairly firm grasp of several religious traditions.  I am “tolerant” of people who identify with those traditions and of the traditions themselves, except when they contribute to harming people or impinging on my freedom not to be a member of one of them.  But I just can’t identify with a politician who uses religion as a defining factor of his political beliefs.

As we in Canada have begun our race to election day, I’ve thought several times of what would happen if a Canadian politician made these kinds of references in a political speech or if s/he attempted, openly, to draft certain “religious” entities as supporters.  It’s actually not thinkable (so far) and I’m glad of that.

Imagine my shock when I came upon a story indicating that a whole line of electioneering paraphernalia based on religion is coming from the Obama campaign:

The Obama campaign is preparing rolling out a new line of “faith merchandise” – the latest move in an ambitious effort to win over religious voters.

“Check out the Believers for Barack, Pro-Family Pro-Obama, and Catholics for Obama buttons, bumper stickers and signs….” says Obama Deputy Director of Religious Affairs Paul Monteiro in an e-mail obtained by the Beliefnet Web site.

“Believers for Barack rally signs and bumper stickers, along with all Pro-Family Pro-Obama merchandise, are appropriate for people of all faith backgrounds. We’ll soon be rolling out merchandise for other religious groups and denominations, but I wanted to get this out to you without delay,” he adds.

Both campaigns have been making a major push for the Catholic vote, which has gone to the winning presidential campaign in every race since 1976, except Al Gore’s 2000 White House bid.

Beliefnet reported that “Clergy for Change” and “Pro-Israel Pro-Obama” merchandise will soon be offered.

But, what Anglachel said.

On the other hand, “Pro-Israel Pro-Obama” has obvious and real political implications, even if the rest of it”is a politically smart appeal to parts of the electorate that the Democrats have no previously been able to reach.  And “Pro- Family Pro-Obama” doesn’t sit well with me either, smacking as it does of anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage, traditional “family values” ideology.  Given Obama’s dithering with respect to his views on abortion, that makes me pretty nervous.

Palin and Same Sex Benefits

From County Fair:

In an August 29 article, the Associated Press reported that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “opposes gay marriage — constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time — but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners.” However, the AP did not note, as the AP had previously reported, that the bill she vetoed in December 2006 was a response to a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that the state’s policy of denying spousal benefits to same-sex partners of public employees violated the Alaska Constitution. The bill would have prohibited state officials from granting such benefits despite a 2006 state Supreme Court order requiring them to issue regulations granting benefits pursuant to the 2005 decision by January 1, 2007. Further, the AP did not note that Palin stated that she vetoed the bill because the Alaska attorney general had advised her that it was unconstitutional, not because she believed same-sex partners of public employees should receive benefits. Indeed, Palin’s office stated in its veto message: “The Governor’s veto does not signal any change or modification to her disagreement with the action and order by the Alaska Supreme Court.” Further, the AP did not note that as a candidate for governor, Palin also reportedly supported a ballot question banning benefits for same-sex couples.

Read the rest here