Religious and Civil Rights Groups, Legislators, Bar Associations, Labor, Businesses, and Legal Scholars Urge Court to Overturn Prop 8

January 15, 2009 12:00 am

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Google, California Council of Churches, California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and California Rural Legal Assistance among groups submitting friend-of-the-court briefs

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SAN FRANCISCO — Today, hundreds of religious organizations, civil rights groups, and labor unions, along with numerous California municipal governments, bar associations, and leading legal scholars collectively urged the California Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8. Dozens of amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs argue that Proposition 8 drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California’s constitution, and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.

Major California businesses, including Google, as well as Levi Strauss & Co. and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, submitted a brief arguing that writing inequality into the constitution is bad for business.

Professors from the most prominent universities and law schools in California and the country authored briefs urging the invalidation of Proposition 8, including scholars from Harvard University, Stanford University, Yale University, University of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Hastings, Davis, Irvine), University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, University of San Francisco, Loyola Law School, Santa Clara Law School, Chapman University, and Pepperdine University.

A coalition of more than 50 California labor organizations, including United Healthcare Workers (UHW) and the California Labor Federation, filed an amicus brief on January 13, 2009 urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8. The labor organizations represent more than two million working men and women in California. The brief defends the rights of all Californians to equal treatment under the constitution, and argues that union members’ rights could be in jeopardy if Proposition 8 were held to be valid.

Leading African American, Latino, and Asian American civil rights groups filed a brief arguing that Proposition 8 prevents the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of enforcing the equal protection rights of minorities.

“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.”

In a brief filed on January 14, 2009, the California Council of Churches and other religious leaders and faith organizations representing millions of members discussed the harm Proposition 8 poses to religious minorities.

“Proposition 8 poses a grave threat to religious freedom,” said Rev. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of the California Council of Churches. “If the court permits same-sex couples to be deprived of equal protection by a simple majority vote, religious minorities could be denied equal protection as well—a terrible injustice in a nation founded by people who emigrated to escape religious persecution. If the court permits Proposition 8 to take effect, religious discrimination similarly could be written into California's constitution.”

Also on January 14, leading local, state and national women’s rights organizations submitted a brief asking the court to invalidate Proposition 8 because of its disastrous implications for women and other groups that face discrimination.

Other briefs supporting the legal challenge were filed on behalf of 66 current and former California legislators; the California League of Women Voters; dozens of bar associations, civil rights, and legal aid organizations; a number of California cities; and numerous children’s advocacy organizations and LGBT civil rights organizations, including the National Center for Youth Law, Legal Services for Children, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians. Proposition 8 eliminated this fundamental right only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group. Proposition 8 passed by a bare 52 percent on November 4.

On November 19, 2008, the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, and established an expedited briefing schedule, under which briefing will be completed in January 2009, with amicus curiae or “friend-of-the-court” briefs due on January 15. Oral argument potentially could be held as early as March 2009. The case is Strauss et al. v. Horton et al. (#S168047).

For a complete list of organizations filing amicus briefs, visit /lgbt/relationships/38470lgl20090121.html.

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