BY JULIA CHEEVER
Bay City News
A marriage equality group asked the California Supreme Court in San Francisco today to remove from the November state ballot an initiative that would ban same-sex marriage.
Equality California argued in a lawsuit filed directly in the high court that the measure would be a state constitutional revision, not an amendment, and would therefore require more elaborate procedures for passage.
While a constitutional amendment can be enacted by a voter initiative alone, a proposed revision must be approved by two-thirds of each house of the Legislature before being submitted to state voters.
Lawyers for the civil rights group wrote that the initiative slated for the Nov. 4 ballot is a revision because it would “alter the underlying principles on which the California Constitution is based.”
The measure would change the document “by severely compromising the core constitutional principle of equal citizenship (and) depriving a vulnerable minority of fundamental rights,” the lawsuit alleges.
Attorney Stephen Bomse said, “We filed this lawsuit because the sponsors of the initiative haven’t followed the very constitution they’re trying to change.
“For good reason, there’s a strict process for making revisions to our constitution and it’s more involved than simply collecting petition signatures,” Bomse said.
The ballot measure would amend the state constitution to require that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
It would overturn the state high court’s May 15 ruling that the California Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment and privacy provide a right to same-sex marriage.
A conservative Christian legal group vowed today to fight the new lawsuit.
Glen Lavy, a lawyer with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, said, “Equality California and its allies are desperate to evade democracy.”
Lavy said the fund and ProtectMarriage, a coalition of supporters of the initiative, “will defend the right of the people to participate in democratic process and vote on the constitutional amendment.”
The lawsuit was filed against Secretary of State Debra Bowen and five individual proponents of the initiative.
It asks the court to issue a stay blocking the measure from going to the state printer until the panel has held a hearing and issued ruling on whether the initiative should be taken off the ballot.
The court has the options of holding a hearing on the lawsuit, acting on the petition without holding a hearing or sending the case to a lower court.
Lawyers for Equality California wrote that they filed the case directly in the state high court because the Aug. 11 deadline for ballot measures to go to the printer does not allow time for the case to work its way through lower courts.
Equality California, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was joined in the lawsuit by three individual plaintiffs from Long Beach and San Francisco.
They are represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Los Angeles-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and two private law firms.
In a second argument, Equality California contends the initiative was misleading because petition signers were told last fall and winter that the measure would make no change in the manner in which marriage is recognized in California.
In fact, the California Supreme Court had already agreed to review the lawsuits seeking a right to same-sex marriage and thus it was possible that such marriages would be allowed, the lawsuit says.
See Related: MARRIAGE EQUALITY ARCHIVE
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