Calif. Legislative Committee Backs Efforts to Overturn Prop. 8

( [email protected] ) Feb 18, 2009 01:21 PM EST

A legislative committee in California approved on Tuesday a resolution that puts members of the Assembly on record opposing the validity of Proposition 8, the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 in favor of a resolution asking the Supreme Court to overturn the measure, which was approved by voters in November.

Although it is non-binding, House Resolution 5 states that the Assembly opposes Proposition 8 because it is "an improper revision, not an amendment, of the California Constitution" and should have been approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature before being submitted to the voters.

The resolution, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, now heads to the full Assembly.

A similar measure, Senate Resolution 7, has been introduced by Democratic Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, the first openly gay man elected to the state Senate, according to his Web site. The measure, almost identical to HR, is slated to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in coming weeks.

Committee members who voted in favor of the House Resolution say a constitutional right cannot be nullified regardless of how many people vote for it.

Those who voted against HR 5 say the resolution is not binding and that the Legislature should not try to influence the Court's ruling.

Groups that backed Proposition 8 say the Legislature should be focused on more important matters, like the economic crisis, not a challenge to the amendment. They also contend it was legal to put the measure directly before voters because it did not amount to a constitutional revision., which ran the campaign to pass Proposition 8, has called the non-binding resolutions meaningless and a waste of time.

Earlier on Tuesday, the National Organization of Marriage asked supporters to contact legislators, urging them to uphold the "will of more than 7 million Californians" who approved the measure.

"The California Constitution gives the people of California the right to propose and adopt amendments," states the NOM letter to California lawmakers.

"The courts may consider the validity of an amendment. The separation of powers demands that the legislature now step aside and defer to the expressed will of the people."

In November, Californian voters approved the Proposition 8 by a 52 percent margin. The measure, which amended the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, overturned the California Supreme Court decision last year that legalized same-sex marriage. In a decision issued in May 2008, the Court had overruled a law passed by state voters in 2000 that banned same-sex marriage.

The state High Court has scheduled oral arguments on three lawsuits challenging the amendment to begin March 5. In the meantime, it has refused to allow same-sex couples to resume marrying before it rules.

The Court will decide on the validity of Proposition 8, whether the measure was improperly enacted and if it takes away a fundamental right from a minority group.

Dozens of groups have filed briefs in support of the measure, most arguing that the amendment was not a drastic revision to the state Constitution but rather a reaffirmation of traditional marriage. They also contend that a definition of marriage limiting the union to a man and woman is similar to exclusions based on age and monogamy.

If Supreme Court Justices uphold Proposition 8, they must decide whether the measure would retroactively nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the state.