California Proposition 8 (2008)
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Proposition 8 was a California State ballot proposition that amended the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. It overrode a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriage in California as a fundamental right. The official ballot title language for Proposition 8 is "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The entirety of the text to be added to the constitution was: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $35.8 million and $37.6 million, respectively, becoming the highest-funded campaign on any state ballot that day and surpassing every campaign in the country in spending except the presidential contest. The proponents argued for exclusively heterosexual marriage while claiming that failure to change the constitution would require changes to school curriculum and threaten church tax benefits. The opponents argued that eliminating the rights of any Californian and mandating that one group of people be treated differently from everyone else was unfair and wrong.
Before the election some California county clerks announced that because it usually takes a month for election results to be certified as final, they did not plan to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until they were directed by the state health department, which oversees marriage records. However, many counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Yolo, Kern, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, San Diego, San Bernardino, Sacramento, and Tuolumne, stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on November 5, 2008, the day after the election.
Another pending legal issue is whether approximately 18,000 same-sex marriages already in effect would be retroactively annulled by the constitutional change, or whether they would be preserved. California Attorney General Jerry Brown said that existing same-sex marriages would be unaffected, but other legal experts have said challenges are likely. The 14-word constitutional amendment does not state explicitly that it would nullify same-sex marriages performed before the Nov. 4 election, although proponents say it will.
On November 5, 2008, three lawsuits were filed, challenging the validity of Proposition 8 on the grounds that revoking the right of same sex couples to marry was a constitutional "revision" rather than an "amendment", and therefore required the prior approval of 2/3 of each house of the California State Legislature. Plaintiffs in the various suits included same-sex couples who had married or planned to marry in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles and the county of Santa Clara. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to join the lawsuit filed by the City of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara County challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Claims made on similar grounds with respect to other constitutional changes have in some cases taken years to be adjudicated, and almost all have failed.
More than one-third of California's lawmakers, forty-four members of the California Legislature, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of one of the three lawsuits seeking to invalidate Proposition 8. The brief argues that the same-sex marriage ban improperly usurped the state Supreme Court's duty to protect minority groups from discrimination. The Anti-Defamation League, the Bar Association of San Francisco and three other legal or civil rights groups also submitted letters supporting efforts to get the court to delay implementation of Proposition 8.