Sunday, November 23, 2008

Article: Civil Rights Groups Petition Calif. Supreme Court to Stop Enactment of Prop. 8

Five lawsuits have been filed against Proposition 8, the infamous California Proposition that passed by a 52% majority vote, changing the California Constitution to read that marriage is defined between one man and one woman.  

*Click here* to read about the lawsuit being filed by Lamda Legal, the National Council for Lesbian Rights (NCLR--this is the group that originally took the case to the Supreme Court), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

*Click here* to read about the lawsuit filed by couple Robin Tyler and Diane Olsen and their attorney Gloria Allred.

*Click here* to read about the counties in the San Francisco Bay area filing a lawsuit against Prop 8.

*Click here* to read about the lawsuit filed by Equality California on behalf of six couples who did not marry prior to Prop 8 passing, who would like to be able to marry now/at some point in the future

This blog post is specifically about the lawsuit being filed by minority civil rights litigation firms against Prop 8, since this proposition sets the precedent to take back civil rights that have already been granted.  This has potentially dangerous consequences for ethnic and religious minorities, and women.  The article below from the blog ** gives a good description, including some solid quotes from the organizations filing lawsuits, about why Prop 8's passage hurts minority communities.  A pdf copy of the writ is included.  The organizations involved in this suit are the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the California NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC).

*Click here* to read a news report of the information contained below.  The news article contains less technical language than that contained in the article below.

Also of note is that the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the lawsuits being filed against Prop 8, even though they have denied a request to put the implementation of Prop 8 on hold until a resolution has been reached.  *Click here* for more information.

Below the article, please find comments from readers, including a copy of the comment written by the Editor of Obama IS America!, which is still pending approval at the time of the publication of this blog post.


Civil Rights Groups Petition Calif. Supreme  Court  to  Stop Enactment  of  Prop. 8

EJS joined other civil rights groups today in filing a petition with the California Supreme Court to stop the enactment of Proposition 8 because it would mandate discrimination against a minority group and did not follow the process required for fundamental revisions to the California Constitution.

In the petition (download PDF), the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Equal Justice Society, California NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. argue that in order to protect the fundamental rights of all Californians, a higher standard is required to overturn the right to marry. Minority communities cannot be stripped of their fundamental rights by a simple majority vote.

"We would be making a grave mistake to view Proposition 8 as just affecting the LGBT community," said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society. "If the Supreme Court allows Proposition 8 to take effect, it would represent a threat to the rights of people of color and all minorities."

The petition filed by Raymond C. Marshall of Bingham McCutchen and Prof. Tobias Barrington Wolff of University of Pennsylvania Law School on behalf of leading African American, Latino, and Asian American groups echo the arguments made in the November 5 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights: Proposition 8 prevents the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of enforcing the equal protection rights of minorities.

The California Constitution requires that any measure attempting to revise the underlying principles of the constitution must first be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature before being submitted to the voters. Proposition 8 was not approved through that constitutionally required process.

"Proposition 8 contradicts the most basic protection guaranteed by the California Constitution, which is the right to equal protection of the laws," said John Trasviña, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "We can not allow the Constitution to sanction discrimination against one group of people."

"Direct democracy cannot override the California Constitution, which requires more than a majority vote to deprive a minority group of their fundamental rights," said John A. Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

"We cannot become a society that picks and chooses who is entitled to equal rights," said Alice A. Huffman, president of the California State NAACP. "We should include all people from all walks of life in the entitlement to all freedoms now enjoyed by the majority of our population As a civil rights advocate, we will continue the fight of eliminating roadblocks to freedom."

"Consistent with core equal protection principles, minority communities must not be stripped of their fundamental rights by bare majority rule," said Karin Wang, Vice-President of Programs for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. "California went down this path before when the majority population chose to bar interracial marriages involving an unpopular minority: Asian immigrants.  The state Constitution exists exactly for this reason - to protect the fundamental rights of minority communities."

"Let's not forget the landmark 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, which allowed two people of different races to marry," said Paterson of the Equal Justice Society. "People then believed it was acceptable to keep Mildred Loving from marrying a white man because of their ideas of who should marry whom. We must not return to those times."

The court has precedent for invalidating an improper voter initiative. In 1990, the court overruled an initiative that would have added a provision to the California Constitution stating that the "Constitution shall not be construed by the courts to afford greater rights to criminal defendants than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States." That measure was invalid because it improperly attempted to strip California's courts of their role as independent interpreters of the state's constitution.

A copy of the writ petition filed today is available at

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. ( was founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall. Although LDF's primary purpose was to provide legal assistance to poor African Americans, its work over the years has brought greater justice to all Americans.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF (, the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center ( is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for civil rights, providing legal services and education, and building coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Pacific Americans and to create a more equitable and harmonious society. APALC is affiliated with the Asian American Justice Center, the Asian American Institute in Chicago, and the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

The Equal Justice Society ( is a national strategy group heightening conscious on race in the law and popular discourse. Using a three-pronged strategy of law and public policy advocacy, cross-disciplinary convenings and strategic public communications, EJS seeks to restore race equity issues to the national consciousness, build effective progressive alliances, and advance the discourse on the positive role of government.

Posted on Friday, November 14, 2008 at 05:09PM by Registered CommenterEJS Comments4 Comments

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Thank you all for this effort re Prop 8
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Schwartz
I totally disagree with your filing a challenge to California's Prop 8, and I hope you'll have that challenge dismissed immediately. Here's why:

There is absolutely no correlation between the real Civil Rights struggle of the 1950's and 1960's, and today's push for acceptance of the gay lifestyle. As someone who joined other students who marched out of high school and hit the streets in 1968 when we saw that Black students were being discriminated against by the San Diego Unified School District, I saw - I lived through - what was happening then. Here's the basic difference: today's domestic partners already have the same legal rights and protections as married couples in California. That wasn't true in the 1950's and 1960's. Separate but equal then was represented by separate drinking fountains, churches, schools, bathrooms, restaurants . . . my gosh! I'm sure you know the history? It was a horrible time, totally shameful. This is nothing like that at all! Not even close. What we have here is a small group pushing for acceptance of their lifestyle, and it just isn't going to happen. 

You're entering a very dangerous area where you're working toward disenfranchising over half of the voters of this state when you try to have the vote of the people overturned like this. That's just not right. In the United States, we live by the consent of the governed, not by judicial caveat. What should happen is that the gay community should win the trust of the voters of this state and then go for their own Constitutional Amendment allowing gay marriage. Besides that, you know as well as I do that most Black and Hispanic voters in this state voted for Prop 8. How can you misrepresent them like this? That's just wrong.

I sincerely hope you'll listen to what I'm saying. Probably not. But I want you to know that not only am I writing to you today, but I am leaving the Democratic Party because of their support for gay marriage (not real legal protections for gay and lesbian couples, but gay marriage in particular). I'm faxing Karen Bass a copy of my new voter registration later today. 

Karen Grube
November 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Grube
Ms Grube, I so appreciate your work in the civil rights movement back in the day. My work on same sex marriage has led me to conclude that people of conscience and good will can disagree and still respect each other's bona fides. Your point of view is one I have encountered before and I understand why you feel that the struggle for the rights of the LGBT community and the struggle for racial equality are not comparable. I have a different perspective. We at the Equal Justice Society feel that we must pursue a broad and inclusive vision of a better world. That vision includes racial justice, a clean and healthy planet, decent and affordable housing for all, economic security, universal health care, etc. The freedom to love whoemver you choose is also part of that vision. Our vision is not racial justice OR marriage equality but racial justice AND marriage equality.

Denying the right to marry because civil unions are legal (and I respect your disagreeing with my conclusion) is like saying Mrs. Rosa Parks was not suffering any harm because she had a seat on the bus even if it was in the back. Marriage is very important to many people both legally and symbolically. Saying gays and lesbians are not allowed to partake in this most wonderful tradition, this exquisite recognition of the quest for life long love, is to relegate them to the back of the bus-on board but not quite equal.

Once again, reasonable people can disagree. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how you feel.

-- Eva Paterson
November 17, 2008 | Registered CommenterEJS
Thank you for your good and necessary work on this issue. The commonality of all minority groups needing to be concerned when the majority can vote on their rights is one that is too often overlooked. Our democracy has been crafted to protect from such a tyranny of a majority, and I am grateful for your efforts to once more highlight the greater amount diverse groups have in common then that in which we differ.
November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTanene

Obama IS America! Editor comment (still to be published):

This comment is mostly directed to Ms. Grube above, and also includes some general thoughts on the issues surrounding Prop 8. I started off typing a little comment, and it has somehow turned into an essay. So here goes:  

To clarify a point, I see Proposition 8 to be discriminatory against gay people and contrary to the belief in equal rights for all for the following reason-- You cannot tell someone is gay by looking at him or her. If you are racist or sexist, all you have to do to identify and target the population you want to discriminate against is to look at another person and discriminate based on what you see, whether it is skin color, eye shape, gender, hair texture, etc. However, in order to discriminate against a gay person, you have to attack what it is that defines a person as gay--who he/she chooses to build a relationship with. So, by targeting marriage and writing marriage inequality into the constitution, you thereby discriminate against a group of people based on who they are.  

Now, one may hone in on my above usage of the word 'choose' for criticism. Well I have two points to make on this. Firstly, every person chooses who his or her partner will be, regardless of gender. Unless you are involved in a forced arranged marriage, there is generally going to be a great deal of choice involved in who you choose to commit yourself to. Secondly, for a country that places so much emphasis on the freedom of choice, the idea that someone can 'choose' to be in a homosexual relationship seems to be taboo. However, what this whole discussion around gay marriage, Prop 8, and gay people seems to have missed are all the people who fall in the gray zone between fully identifying as Gay/Lesbian and as Straight. There are many people who find themselves attracted to people of both genders, but may 'choose' to be with a person of the same gender in the end. Prop 8 discriminates against all of these people as well. It also forces the idea that marriage between a man and a woman is 'normal' down the throats of everyone, even if they do not necessarily believe this.  

The last point I would like to make is that since the passage of Prop 8, many journalists and commentators have pitted minorities--Black people especially--against Gay people, inaccurately reducing the great diverse state of California to Black people, Asian people, White people, Latino people and 'The Gays'. However, gay people are a part of EVERY community. Every ethnic, religious, cultural, national, you name it type of group has a Gay minority within it. No matter what community you come from, whether you are Black, White, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, Christian, Hindu, Athiest, conservative, liberal, Democratic, Republican, etc etc etc, there are gay people within your community, and supporting anti-gay legislation will ultimately harm people within your own community.  

That's all, thanks for reading.  

On a side note, the article above has been republished on the blog Obama IS America!. If this is a problem for any reason, please send an email to 

Thank you!

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