It has been 1,515 days since November 4, 2008. That’s the day California voters approved Proposition 8, the ballot initiative designed to end the Golden State’s heralded experiment with same-sex marriage. During that time, Prop 8 has been forcefully challenged as a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution, has been the subject of a one-sided bench trial, has twice been declared unconstitutional, and has been accepted for review by the justices of the United States Supreme Court. And during all that time it has never really enjoyed a coherent defense. Until now.
On Tuesday, the first substantive brief was filed in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case now under review by the Supreme Court. The document was filed by lawyers representing a group of citizens who took over the case after California’s elected officials refused to continue to defend the measure. I’m still not convinced that their arguments are going to persuade Justice Anthony Kennedy to save Prop 8. And without his vote the measure is doomed. But these are about the best legal arguments that can be offered in support of this dubious measure, and they are laid out more impressively here than I have yet seen while covering this case.
Here is the link to the brief. For our purposes, the most important passage — an example of strong legal writing — comes at pages 20 through 26, and I suggest you take the time to read all seven pages. The gist of this text is likely to animate the Prop 8 case from here on in, through oral argument in late March to the decision in late June. And the rhetoric contained here surely poses a new challenge to the initiative’s famous foes, lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson, who until now have largely won the legal war in court over Prop 8 as well as the public relations war beyond it.
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