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Prop 8 Opponents Seek Supreme Court Hearing

New America Media, News Report, Annette Fuentes Posted: Nov 18, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just two weeks after California voters approved Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, a broad coalition of legal, civil and gay rights groups as well as women's and religious organizations have launched legal challenges in the state Supreme Court to invalidate the new law as unconstitutional.

Yesterday, the California Women's Law Center and Equal Rights Advocates filed a petition with the court, claiming that Prop 8 violates the constitution's equal protection guarantee. Their petition further argues that such a major change to the California constitution would require a two-thirds majority of legislators. The California Council of Churches also is going to court to challenge the legality of Prop 8 on the grounds that it violates the equal protection clause.

"As a society, and in California, people live next door to gay families. They are part of our everyday life. We have changed so much and expanded our thinking about the rights of everyone," said Irma Herrera, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, in San Francisco. "As a women's organization, we know that many of our rights came through the interpretation of our state constitution. It doesn't serve any of our interests to be treated differently. Yes, in this context it is about the rights of gay and lesbian families. But in the future it could be another group."

While religious organizations, in particular the Mormon Church, were vital in funding and organizing for passage of Prop 8, there was equally sizable opposition from religious institutions that considered the measure a threat to their constituents' liberties. The California Council on Churches, a Sacramento-based organization of 51 denominations representing 1.5 million members, opposed Prop 8 and is now joining others in a Supreme Court challenge.

"From our point of view, this is trying to impose one particular religious view on everyone and we're opposed to that," said Rev. Rick Schlosser, executive director of the council. "Once the door is open to discriminate against any minority it's hard to tell where that would end. It could be discrimination against any religious minority. If the equal protection charge in the constitution is violated, as Prop 8 does, it violates the rights of minorities."

Schlosser said that while member churches within the council may have differing opinions about Prop 8 and legal challenges to it, the council's board of directors was clear in its decision to file a legal a petition in the Supreme Court.

The legal challenges filed yesterday join a suit filed Nov. 14 by a coalition of many of the country's major civil rights and legal organizations. They include the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Equal Justice Society. The legal basis in that challenge is the two-thirds majority argument advanced in the petition filed yesterday. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has also jumped into the fray, urging the court to rule on the legality of Prop 8 without taking a position for or against the measure.

Meanwhile, Prop 8's creators are asking the court to rule on the challenges. They are also asking the court to dismiss their opponents request that the ban on same-sex marriage be suspended pending the outcome of the court's ruling.

The Supreme Court already weighed in on same-sex marriage, ruling in June 2008 that the constitution guaranteed that right. Herrera is confident that the court will give Prop 8 opponents a fair hearing and find the measure unconstitutional.

"We certainly think it will be and should be entertained," she said. "We think the California Supreme Court is the place to make such a ruling."

Related Articles:

New Yorkers Protest Gay Marriage Ban

Prop 8 Legal Challenge

Editorial: A stand for same-sex marriage

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