Tag Archives: California

Prop 8 Unconstitutional

8 Feb

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit (Federal) Court of Appeals ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which re-prohibited same sex marriage in that state, is unconstitutional.

What people forget is that a lawsuit filed in San Francisco led to the California Supreme Court ruling that the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (based on the California state constitution).

Secondly, California’s highest court determined that reserving the term “marriage” only for heterosexual couples was violative of that state’s equal protection clause.

Two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in California counties brought a federal action, a 12-day bench trial was held, and the Federal District Court ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional – that there was no rational basis or compelling state interest for the state to withhold the term “marriage” from same-sex couples.

Because Proposition 8 did nothing to substantively alter the underlying relationship or domestic partnerships into which California same-sex couples had committed themselves. Instead, it simply took from them the word “marriage”. But the court didn’t point this out to diminish the matter, but to highlight it. “A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not. The word ‘marriage’ is singular in connoting ‘ a harmony in living,’ ‘a bilateral loyalty,’ and ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.'”, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut, which declared the existence of a federal right to privacy and struck down prohibitions against contraception.

In the end, the court found that constitutional jurisprudence does not permit the people to “enact laws” that “single out a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status” thus raising “the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.” The purpose of such a law isn’t to promote some “legitimate legislative end”, but “to make them unequal to everyone else.”

In order for a law like Prop 8 to stand, with all of its “meaningful harm to gays and lesbians”, some “legitimate state interest” must justify it. More specifically, “it” isn’t whether the legal state extant post-Prop 8 was constitutional or not – the question is whether the change that Proposition 8 made in the law could be justified, in and of itself.

The U.S. Supreme Court had decided cases going back to the 60s forbidding states from a “targeted exclusion of a group of citizens from a right or benefit that they had enjoyed on equal terms with all other citizens.” A right conveyed cannot later be withdrawn without a legitimate state justification.

The court analyzed the purported “justifications” for Prop 8 and found them illegitimate. For instance, Prop 8 proponents claimed that only heterosexual marriage was good for childrearing, but the law didn’t substantively affect same-sex couples’ right to have or adopt children. The court also went out of its way to destroy the Prop 8 proponents’ arguments that taking away the use of the term “marriage” from same-sex couples will promote responsible procreation by heterosexual couples.

The court found that Prop 8 existed as “nothing more or less than a judgment about the worth and dignity of gays and lesbians as a class.” Indeed, the court found that Prop 8 was born and promoted from a fundamental disapproval of homosexuals and from homophobia – that same-sex couples are inferior, and that their relationships are undesirable. The 9th Circuit concluded saying that the people of California violated the Equal Protection Clause by using their initiative power to target a minority group and illegitimately withdrawing a right that they possessed.

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Gay Marriage, Prop 8 & Obama

28 May

Because I’m not from Gulli-fornia, I haven’t paid exquisite attention to the Prop 8 battle. In a nutshell, the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Opponents put forth Prop 8, a ballot question to ban gay marriage, and it won by a narrow margin. There was a great deal of controversy over the fact that the Mormon Church was extremely active and raised a lot of money to pass Prop 8.

Naturally, a lawsuit was brought to overturn Prop 8. One of the attorneys representing proponents of gay marriage/opponents of Prop 8 is former Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson.

Here’s an explanation of why Olson is advocating for gay marriage (original from this article):

“I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions,” Olson told me Tuesday night. “I thought their cause was just.”

I asked Olson about the objections of conservatives who will argue that he is asking a court to overturn the legitimately-expressed will of the people of California. “It is our position in this case that Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court, denies federal constitutional rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution,” Olson said. “The constitution protects individuals’ basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote. If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. We believe that denying individuals in this category the right to lasting, loving relationships through marriage is a denial to them, on an impermissible basis, of the rights that the rest of us enjoy…I also personally believe that it is wrong for us to continue to deny rights to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

That argument is as persuasive as it is reasonable. And if a referendum is passed that is contrary to the rights set forth in the Constitution, it must be stricken.

This is all interesting not only from a gay marriage standpoint, but it’s relevant in terms of what now passes for a debate over Sonia Sotomayor. You don’t think the court makes policy? Of course it does. It does so with every decision it makes, negatively or affirmatively. Everything the Court does is important from a Constitutional perspective, and when it affirms or overturns a statute or the result of a case, it is setting policy. Every. Single. Time.

It’s a co-equal branch of government, not some completely independent body that sits off on the sidelines deciding random cases. It is an integral part of our system of checks and balances. Like the other two co-equal branches of government, it sets policy. To say otherwise is silly.

With that said, when die-hard conservatives like Ted Olson can come to the conclusion that gay marriage is an equal protection issue protected by the Constitution, then there’s no reason why the Obama Administration or any Democrat should be reticent about supporting gay marriage. And if you don’t want to call it gay marriage, then we get into a semantic argument that serves no purpose. Call it Fred for all I care, so long as gay couples can have their relationships legally recognized, together with the rights that every other married couple enjoys.

The California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, and now it’ll be hopefully on its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Some of What I Did In Order to Eat Turkey

1 Dec

After a 6 hour flight to San Diego, we could have taken a $10 cab ride to our hotel, but I had a rental car to pick up. I found San Diego’s airport to be small and clusterf*cky. After retrieving our luggage, we walked over to the area where the shuttle buses took us to Thrifty’s location nearby. The bus took a circuitous route, first to Terminal 2, and then through wads of rain-soaked traffic to Thrifty’s confusing, difficult-to-reach lot off-site.

Upon arrival, there were about 6 groups of people waiting outside to retrieve cars. I walked in and was third in line. It was 8:30 PM PST, and there were three people behind the counter.

Then two.

Then one.

Then none.

They would rotate in and out without rhyme or reason. The one person who seemed to hang out behind the counter the longest was dealing with a very noisily surly family that had reserved a compact car but needed at least a minivan or SUV for them and all their shit. They insisted that they had called and spoken with the “owner” to change their reservation the day before, but no evidence of such call or change was forthcoming from either side of the ridiculously lengthy standoff.

The other employees took excruciatingly long to complete people’s check-in, and once all the insurances had been offered and rejected, after all the Garmins and fuel options had been explained, offered, and rejected, the clerk would disappear out to the lot for tens of minutes. There was at least one 10 minute span of time during which no customers were being attended-to by clerks behind the counter.

I tend not to be too vocal about my exasperation with untenably long customer service failures, but I was starting to mutter colorful curses in Croatian, so as not to offend people with a full-on “mother f*cker” or “how the f*ck complicated is it to rent someone a f*cking car” in public.

Meanwhile, my wife and kids (for whom it was significantly past bedtime) were waiting outside in the fresh air/rain, where periodically 737s and DC-9s would roar mere tens of feet overhead on their final approach to the runway, the end of which was located 1/2 block away.

Finally, the surly family that couldn’t fit their bedouin-camp’s worth of belongings and people into a Hyundai Sonata went outside to deliberate their next move, so my turn came around. I had booked the “wild car“, which guarantees a mid-size or better car for a compact price.

I was given a wheezy, smelly Ford Fusion with 30,000 miles on it, still dirty from sand and discarded Cheerios. It was dark and rainy out, and the lot was poorly lit, so I didn’t inspect it for damage before leaving. I loaded everyone and everything into its stained beige velour confines, and as I was leaving, I had to show my paperwork to some kid by the exit. I did so, and he asked for some form that I hadn’t seen. It was the “I inspected the car” form. I took it, scrawled “D/N INSPECT” on it, handed it back to him, and went on my merry way.

My last two car rental / travel experiences had been in the comparatively super-organized Fort Lauderdale airport, where Thrifty’s cars & counter are in an adjacent parking structure, convenient as can be. Also by comparison, Buffalo’s airport has state-of-the-art rental car facilities versus that of San Diego.

Despite its predilection to over-revving when accelerating to highway speeds, and its odor of smoke and feet, the Fusion got decent mileage, had a big trunk, and performed reasonably well. It enabled us to spend some time on the beach at Coronado, and checking out the views in La Jolla, Point Loma, and Sunset Cliffs.

San Diego itself has transormed itself from a sleepy border town into a world-class city, complete with thriving downtown entertainment districts, high-rise condos, a massive waterfront convention center, great shopping, a downtown ballfield, and an accessible waterfront with actual stuff to do. Hell, they even have a modern commuter rail system.

I will say, however, that 70 degrees and sunny year-round can get boring. There’s nothing like 30 degrees, cloudy, snowy, & windy to make you truly appreciate it when we do get 70 and sunny. Also, while we do have the aforementioned cold, snow, and wind, we do not have persistent drought, frequent massive fires, or earthquakes. And last I checked, there was no massive drug war going on in Niagara Falls or Fort Erie, Ontario.

Meanwhile, in California

7 Jul

A proposition

The proposal to build an 800-mile system of 200-mph trains linking Southern and Northern California, by way of the Valley, has made a great deal of sense throughout its two-decade gestation. Proposition 1, the $9.95 billion bond measure, is the necessary first step.

High-speed rail will be an engine of economic development that we badly need in this state, creating tens of thousands of jobs in both its construction and its operation.

It will have a dramatic impact on our environment, removing thousands of cars from California’s highways. Less congestion will make the remaining vehicles more efficient for those that remain on the road. Conservative estimates suggest millions of barrels of oil could be saved annually, and as much as 22 billion pounds of carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere.

The rail system would also reduce the need for many short- and medium-haul airline flights, which pollute the atmosphere at an astonishing rate.

Now, with gasoline at $4.50 a gallon and rising, high-speed rail is no longer just a good idea. It’s imperative.

High speed rail with Buffalo as a hub connecting Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Albany/Boston/New York would be a pretty dandy thing now in the days of $4.50/gallon gas, hourlong TSA lines, and Amtrak dreck-o-rama.