Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California's Prop 8 Ruling Exemplifies California's Problems

Today's ruling by the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8 (which bans gay marriages) while also preserving the marriages that took place during the window in which it was legal, was certainly expected. The suit to begin with was a long shot, even though it was based on a solid argument about how the court found the right to begin with.

However, more than anything this ruling illustrates a few lessons we've learned today about that quirky state called California - for this ruling says more about the peculiarities of California than about anything else.

First, it illustrates just why California is in the financial mess its in. It's a state where any law - no matter how crazy - can be voted in by fifty percent of the population. The Supreme Court has just validated that there is nothing that the voters can't vote into law, even if it deprives groups of their "inalienable rights." Naturally, Californian's will vote in unfunded mandates - cake and ice cream and no bedtime. It is a mob-rule Democracy, completely unable to govern itself or rectify its financial problems, let alone protect minorities.

Secondly, just how will California enforce this new ruling, in which some gay people can be married and some cannot? Will everyone be required to carry around their marriage certificates now? How will gyms, health care companies, hospitals, etc. be able to distinguish between couples married during the California "window" and those married elsewhere in other states at other times? And what about couples who married in Massachusetts when marriage was legal in California? Are those couples "married"? The possibility for legal suits are mind boggling.

But finally, perhaps most interestingly, the ruling - in which six of seven judges who a year ago ENCOURAGED gay people to get married saying it was an "inalienable right," now agree the right is in fact alienable - indicates just how much the court makes its decisions based on comfortable politics, rather than readings of the law. While it was comfortable to grant the right before the Amendment passed, it wasn't quite so comfortable to uphold it afterwards, especially when voters could simply go right back to the ballot box until they got the outcome they wanted. While this ruling may seem like a sage compromise, in fact the one thing its not is courageous - it simply punts the issue back to the voters, and creates an even bigger legal mess in the process.

Welcome to California. Just don't make any legal plans while you're there.

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