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Five on Eight

Debating Proposition 8--Should California eliminate marriage for same-sex couples?

Voters are being asked to reinstate the people's will, not make a decision about morality.

November 01, 2008|Richard Peterson | Richard Peterson is an assistant professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law and director of its Special Education Advocacy Clinic. He has appeared in ads for the "Yes on 8" campaign.

Proposition 8 is not about the morality of homosexual lifestyles. It is not designed to diminish comprehensive rights already guaranteed to same-sex couples by law in California. It is not motivated by bigotry, discrimination or intolerance.

Proposition 8 is a reinstatement of the people's will as expressed by the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000 by 61% of California voters. That measure was cast aside in May by a vote of 4 to 3 on the California Supreme Court. In a dissenting opinion, state Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter wrote:

"A bare majority of this court, not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the people themselves. Undeterred by the strong weight of state and federal law and authority, the majority invents a new constitutional right, immune from the ordinary process of legislative consideration. The majority finds that our Constitution suddenly demands no less than a permanent redefinition of marriage, regardless of the popular will."

Proposition 8 in no way diminishes the legal protections or status already granted to same-sex couples. As California Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in her dissenting opinion:

"Domestic partnerships and marriages have the same legal standing, granting to both heterosexual and homosexual couples a societal recognition of their lifelong commitment."

Most important, Proposition 8 seeks to protect the crucial role traditional marriage has played in society for more than 1,200 years. In 2004, a group of distinguished scholars from many of the nation's leading universities, including Harvard, Princeton, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, convened to share their research on why marriage -- "understood as the union of one man with one woman as husband and wife" -- is important to society. In their 2006 consensus report, "Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles," they warned that same-sex marriage was one of four major threats to the institution of marriage.

"Marriage cannot survive or flourish when the ideal of marriage is eviscerated. Radically different understandings of marriage, when given legal status, threaten to create a culture in which it is no longer possible for men and women to understand the unique goods that marriage embodies, the fidelity between men and women, united as potential mothers and fathers, bound to the children that the marital union might produce."

Dignity and respect for all individuals, including same-sex couples, is most likely to flourish in a society built on the foundation of traditional marriage: the enduring union of husband and wife.

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