SPLC Submits Brief Calling for California Supreme Court to Overturn Ballot Initiative Banning Same-Sex Marriage


Working with a California law firm, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed an amicus curiae brief calling for the state's Supreme Court to maintain the right to same-sex marriage.

The Court earlier this year ruled that gays had a fundamental right to marry, but this month California voters approved a ballot initiative that denies that right.

The SPLC's brief, filed on Nov. 17, argues that the California Supreme Court should exercise its original jurisdiction in the case, rather than waiting years for the matter to work itself through the court system. The brief also asked the Court to issue a stay order, preserving the status quo — full recognition and continued availability of same-sex marriages — until the Court can address the validity of a ballot initiative that denies a fundamental right to an entire class of individuals.

On Nov. 19, the Court granted the request to exercise original jurisdiction over three petitions filed challenging the validity of Proposition 8. The Court set an expedited briefing schedule, with all filings to be completed by January 21, 2009. The Court also denied multiple requests to stay enforcement of Proposition 8 pending its determination on the validity of the ballot initiative.

The SPLC's brief opens with a quote from a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Board of Education v. Barnette: "One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free pass, freedom of worship and assembly and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

The SPLC argues that the California electorate's passage of Proposition 8 is antithetical to well-established notions of equal protection and right of privacy.

"The proper resolution of these issues constitutes one of the most significant legal issues before this Court since California's inception," the brief states. "Given that thousands of California's citizens are currently in legal limbo — unsure of the status of their marriages which were lawfully performed at the time — time is of the essence. These citizens cannot wait for four years for a final determination of the status of their marriages as these issues wind themselves through lower courts."

Attorneys with the Irvine, Calif., firm of Manning & Marder authored the SPLC's brief.