the courts

California Chief Justice: Betrayed By Prop 8? Then Make Amendments Harder


You’re not going to get any “I’m sorrys” out of the California Supreme Court’s chief justice over May’s 6-1 ruling upholding Prop 8. Ronald George, who by joining the majority upset untold thousands, insists he was just doing his job: interpreting the law, no matter his personal views. “I’m not seeking out any legacy,” says George in an interview. “I’m just doing my one-seventh share of the opinions.” And despite what you may think, his decision to uphold same-sex marriage last year, then uphold Prop 8 this year, is not hypocrisy, he argues. Rather, Californians “reserved their right to amend the Constitution” and it was his court’s job to “[uphold] that authority even when it resulted in the diminution of rights.” Says George: “All I can say for those who feel [betrayed] is to make it more difficult to amend the Constitution, at least in regard to the diminution of the rights of individuals and groups.”

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  • thinktank909

    I agree with the chief justice. I think constitutional amendments need a higher standard of passage like 2/3rds vote or 2 consecutive elections at 50%+1. Its sad that Prop 8 could pass with 50%+1, but our state budget needs 66%.

    If we have a new constitutional convention in California this issue should be addressed.

  • Aaron

    What a smug prick.
    There is no possible way this would be said about a racial minority. It’s shameful that a Supreme Court Justice can so cavalierly dismiss this blatant discrimination that affects thousands of peoples lives and well being.
    Gays are a minority, plain and simple. It should never have been allowed to be on a ballot measure. It’s their job to protect minorities from discrimination, not to protect “the right” of a majority to discriminate.

  • Rudy

    @thinktank909: Absolutely.
    This is why the state is nearly ungovernable and going broke.

  • Schteve

    @Aaron: On the contrary, their ruling made it very clear that this could also be applied to any other minority group. I mean, the court had earlier granted gays the same privileged status as other suspect classes, so in that regard we are no different than blacks, for instance. As Ken Starr was quick to point out, such a racially based amendment would be declared unconstitutional on federal grounds, but it would be completely consistent within the scope of the California constitution itself. I mean, if the U.S. constitution was amended to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment, for example, you can bet states would be allowed to go back to interracial marriage bans.

    To underscore George’s point, however, look at all of the arguments against Prop 8 that were presented in court. Jerry Brown was the only one to basically say this sort of thing should never ever have a chance to become law. All the other petitioners merely said that this type of amendment could be valid but would first require approval by two-thirds of the legislature…which is exactly what George is saying here in that the problem is the constitution isn’t harder to amend.

  • SFNative

    Ronald George says that Californians “reserved their right to amend the Constitution” and it was his court’s job to “[uphold] that authority even when it resulted in the diminution of rights.”

    His decision to uphold same-sex marriage last year, then uphold Prop 8 this year, **is** hypocrisy, and here’s why:


    Article 1 – Declaration of Rights

    SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have **inalienable** rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.



    Inalienable: **incapable** of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred


    In re MARRIAGE CASES (S147999)
    (The case that struck down the ban on same-sex marriages in California in 2008.)

    “In a line of decisions stretching back more than 80 years, the U.S. Supreme Court also has held that the freedom to marry is a **fundamental privacy, liberty, and associational right**. (See, e.g., Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) 262 U.S. 390, 399 [the federal due process clause protects the right to marry]; Loving v. Virginia, supra, 388 U.S. at p. 12 [marriage is a “fundamental freedom” under due process and “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men”];”


    In short, per our California Constitution, the right to liberty and happiness, and therefore the fundamental right to marriage, can not be surrendered.

    Prop 8 literally forced same-sex couples to surrender their rights to liberty and happiness through same-sex marriage.

    Yes, this IS hypocrisy, and worse, Prop 8 left a massive rip in the logic of the California Constitution in its wake, that even I can see as a non-lawyer.

    When the CA Attorney General and Governor both support a Federal lawsuit against Prop 8, you know there’s something profoundly wrong here, and I wonder if there is much, much more to the story behind the CA Supreme Court judges’ ruling over the validity of Prop 8.

  • M Shane

    What an ignorant “issue”. Any person with even the faintest understanding of the “separation of powers’ which is far more basic to our form of government than almost anything knows that the Judicial Branch of government can only interpret the law and not make It. The Legislature and people make laws.

    The issue in Proposition 8 that was clarified was definitional: as the law stands “marriage” and “same sex” are inconsistent. Gay people are not precluded from marriage buy this. Any Gay man can marry the eligable woman of his choice. Lesbians can marry men. They are not denied marriage as it is now understood by the Constitution.

    As with most laws, other laws (in this case a new one) determine how they are to be interpreted. The law is like a family system, in which any one part is affected by the others.

    There is no hypocrisy because tyhe new law changed the meaning of the terms of the old one. I rfepeat, according to this gay people can get married like everyone else to a member of the opposite sex. The law does mnot rob you of the right to marriage.

    Without a doubt, gays will realize when they accept their uniqueness, that if they asked for their own sort of conubial recognition: say civil unions, instead of trying to mascrade as breeders, they will find some satisfaction.

  • AlwaysGay

    @M Shane: Parroting heterosexual bigotry, how smart. Gay couples will always be gay even if they marry, they are no less gay because of marriage. Heterosexuals do not own marriage. The heterosexual bigotry you repeat reminds me of an old Soviet joke. “In America, you have the right to say Reagan is an evil man. And in Russia, we have the right to say Reagan is an evil man. You see? We have the same rights as you!” Of course they didn’t have the same rights. The same thing is happening with gay couples; heterosexuals can marry at will while gay couples either have to refrain or pretend to be heterosexual to get married and recieve all the rights attached to it.

  • Larry

    I agree with Ronald George… I was saddened that the court upheld Prop. 8, but there wasn’t much of a choice.

    Still, constitutional amendments by petition and simple majority vote are a relic of the Populist Era and need to be eliminated. Amending a constitution should never, ever be that easy. If California held a Constitutional convention, it would help if it also included a clause like D.C. has, where human rights can’t be put up to a popular vote.

    I always thought another good idea would be for the counties in the Bay Area to secede from California and form their own state, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  • Konrad

    A Constitutional Amendment, by definition, amends the Constitution. The ruling was correct.

  • Captain Freedom (HRC doesn't speak for me)

    California has let itself be run like a circus. The big mobster unions in one corner, the Evangelical fire-breathing dragons in another, and the corporate fat cats in another. When all three groups have gone berserk, we have an un-governable state with a constitution littered with bullshit. For some reason our state is allowed to get away with this even though we are the size of an entire nation and bigger than many western countries.

    California is proof of what happens when you let a couple million enlightened people live with millions more idiots, religious kooks, union blowhards, rich dixie queens, and everything in between. There is a reason California is among the dumbest states in America and why Massachusetts is somewhere near the top.

  • Schteve

    @SFNative: Surrender their rights? Oh how you are sorely mistaken. The majority opinion explicitly said that same-sex couples retain the vast majority of those associated rights: “Contrary to petitioners’ assertion, Proposition 8 does not entirely repeal or abrogate the aspect of a same-sex couple’s state constitutional right of privacy and due process that was analyzed in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases — that is, the constitutional right of same-sex couples to ‘choose one’s life partner and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage.'”

    The only right Proposition 8 DID remove was the right to call such relationships marriage. That’s hardly a surrender of liberty and happiness, especially since the core essence of rights that remain is what is considered inalienable. The term “marriage” itself is man-made, so trying to call the use of it inalienable is a pretty ridiculous assertion on your part.

    @M Shane: You, however, are just a moron. If Proposition 8 was upheld because it was facially neutral as you suggest, the same-sex marriage ban brought by Proposition 22 never would have been declared unconstitutional in the first place. Something tells me you would be the one complaining, however, if the constitution was suddenly changed to read “only marriage between a man and a woman of different religions is valid or recognized in California.” You’d still have the same right to marry your wife, you’d just have to convert to another non-Christian religion first. Or you know, just opt to marry a Jew or Muslim all while the rest of the world makes light of your refusal to make such a choice.

    @Konrad: The pure simplicity of this argument is astonishing.

  • Rick

    @Aaron: I respectfully disagree. His job is to interpret and uphold the laws of the State of California. The real wrong here is that, to your point, this question would never have come up if the discriminated party were of a particular race.

  • M Shane

    @ Schtevie:
    I won’t call you a moron since I’m sure you try hard to do well. Prop 22 and 8 are worded differently and consequently don’t run into the same problem. Prop 22 states very simply(1 line) that the State will recognise only one kind of marriage.
    Prop 8, on the other hand, defines marriage as the conubial agreement between a man and woman. I. e. in the first case the” equal protection clause” applied since it stated that it precluded one kind of marriage and prohibited another.

    And yes you are correct in saying that I would find the hypothetical Prop. which you posed incorrect.

    I’m not sure why logic turns out to be moronic: maybe just because you don’t want to look at reality. Prop 8 was written diferently very specifically because it would be stupid to reiterate 22 again for the reason that it

  • Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace

    Yes, but let’s hope that Attorneys Boies and Olson’s arguments trump Prop 8.

    Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
    Washington, Connecticut USA

    Kudos to (civil) marriage.

  • Schteve

    @M Shane: Worded differently!? They both consisted of the same exact fourteen word sentence. The only difference between the two was their strength and placement in the body of law.

    What do you mean by finding my hypothetical proposition “incorrect”? Would you disagree with it but recognize it as valid state law (again, ignoring any federal issues), as I do with Proposition 8? Or by some bizarre and inconsistent rationale, do you find the two to be anything but the same situation?

  • Tony

    @Captain Freedom (HRC doesn’t speak for me),

    Ditto. Well said. Love your posts!

  • Wilm Roget


    You, particularly, should not call anyone an idiot, not having claimed: “The only right Proposition 8 DID remove was the right to call such relationships marriage”

    Prop 8 did not deny anyone the right to use the word marriage, it prohibited same-sex couples access to a legal contract called marriage. The fact that people continue to use the word marriage in the phrase ‘same-sex marriage’without legal repercussion proves how wrong your claim is.

    The fact of the matter is that though GLBTQ people lost the civil contract, in California and many other states – we have already won the word. In truth, it was handed to us by the homophobes and the religious right. Every time they used the phrase ‘same-sex marriage’ they legitimized the word and the concept, made it real to people who would otherwise never conceived of such a thing. And in time, GLBTQ people will have access to the contract as well, when the law catches up with society – the mainstream society that at this very moment, uses the word marriage to describe two men or two women who commit their lives to each other.

    By the way, I have seen hundreds of overt homophobes make the exact same claim you did – convincing me where you stand as well. Why don’t you and MShane take your homophobia to WorldNetDaily’s comments forum instead, instead of poisoning the lives of adults here with your ridiculously uneducated, immature and irrational nonsense?

  • Tim in SF

    @Captain Freedom (HRC doesn’t speak for me): California has let itself be run like a circus. … all three groups have gone berserk, we have an un-governable state with a constitution littered with bullshit.

    That’s about right. Our state is ungovernable, largely due to our amendment process having thrown sand in the gears for decades. Prop 13 gutted the schools and they’ve never gotten better. We used to be a leader, now we’re slightly better than Mississippi. Fucking Mississippi.

  • MackMike

    @Aaron: I share your hostility, I do, and I have devoted a great many hours of my time fighting against Prop 8, had my car defaced, notes of hate dropped in my mail box, and more than a few insults hurled at me on street sidewalks where I stood with No on 8 signs held aloft. However, I would say that if we rolled time back to the 60’s and we were dealing with marriage between whites and racial minorities, and this option to ammend the CA consitution so easily existed back then (it did not), Justice George would probably have said the same thing.

    I read an interview with George after he rendered the initial ruling that Proposition 22 was discriminatory. He spoke of being raised in the south, and how his attitudes about discrimination had been formed back then. Justice George has been in the past, for the most part, rather conservative, so in writing the majority decision wherein he defended the rights of gays to marry, he did express his personal belief that such horrendous discrimination should be struck down.

    However, he is a Supreme Court Justice, and as such he is bound by law. It is so hard for me to defend him or the other justices, because their decision sickens me, and yet I understand how they arrived there. California allows such nonsense, and it is exceedingly unfair, and we should change it…but not until we reverse 8–you just know that the Yes on 8 folks will try now to change how we ammend the constitution in an attempt to lock us out forever. Part of the courts decision was that this was a matter of definition and not a matter of rights.

    I loathe this, I will work to change it until the day I draw my last breath, and I am utterly disgusted by my fellow Californians, so I am in no way defending Prop 8. It is just that George really did have our backs, and I do wish that he and 3 other justices joined the single desenting opinion, because I do not believe that any minorty should be denied the rights of the majority–even if only in semantics. I’m just not ready to condemn a man who really did put himself on the line May 16, 2008, especially when I read his interviews and believe that his heart leans elsewhere.

    The law is twisted, and we need to change it, but lets not forget that George was the one justice who took all the heat when he struck down prop 22, and did so with alot of sympathy for our plight.

    Just in the event that anyone thinks I’m defending the notion that we should settle for “civil unions” or something less than full marriage, I am most certainly not, and I’m putting in the time to fight that, but George is not our enemy…the political and legislative process is.

  • MackMike

    @Tim in SF: I totally agree, Tim…and what is worse is that a large portion of our population lives in the outskirtted sections of CA where Evangelical Churches have established themselves as the only form of social interaction while communities are being developed…as a result, our population is becoming more andmore like South Carolinians….I had to go to a graduation ceremony for my nephew in Riverside at Harvest Christian Fellowship, and as I drove through town, I was shocked at all the Baptist and Evangelical campuses, culminating in Harvest’s state of the art Evangelical campus, complete with cafe….I couldn’t bring myself to cross the threshold of the antigay chapel wherein the actual ceremony was unfolding, so I stood outside for 3 hours (yes…3!) and watched on their state of the art televisions viewable from outdoors.

    All that Christian money could have gone to the poor and hungry, but it went for really cool televisions and anti-gay propaganda….gosh, I wish I didn’t love my nephew as I do.

    Anyway, you take this dumbing down of the general population and couple it with what Prop 13 did to us and you get Prop 8–I’m ashamed of my state….I couldn’t even fly a flag outside my home this 4th, I’m so disgusted.

  • MackMike

    @Wilm Roget: Actually Willm, while I agree with your sentiments completely, in the eyes of the court, what they ruled was that gay couples were entitled to all the rights of marriage in the State of California, but not the word….however, the way they wrote it, the suggestion is that we can have “marrage” or “mareage” or “mariage.” I’m not suggesting that this was right…I’m not suggesting in anyway that I support, but that is what their rendering said, when boiled down to its essence. The one thing we lost, legally, was the word–which infuriates me, personally.

  • Schteve

    @Wilm Roget: It prohibited same-sex couples from a legal contract called “marriage”, yes, but it did not prohibit them from a legal contract that is identical in all other ways except its legally recognized name. Your claim that it doesn’t prevent people from still calling their relationships marriage is like saying people aren’t being fined for using the word polygamy where applicable. No shit.

    I don’t know where you’re coming up with accusations of my homophobia, however, given that I’m one of the ones affected by this. I hold the same exact view that MackMike expressed in his two replies, and I’m sure you wouldn’t be quick to call him any such names. I abhor Proposition 8 and believe it violates the U.S. constitution, but I believe George and the rest of the court ruled correctly in deciding this wasn’t a constitutional revision (which was the only thing at issue in the case).

  • M Shane

    No. 17 · Wilm Roget :
    Thanks for explicating what I said in the first place. I fail to see why you would call me a homophobe, however or grouping me with Schteve.

  • M Shane

    And Stchteve: Anyone familiar with language is aware that context is very much or primarily the source from which words obtain thier meaning. That may be too technical for you but that is the way it is and why there is a difference between the two occurances.

  • Schteve

    @M Shane: At least we agree on mutual disassociation.

    @M Shane: Hey, that’s great. Except for the part where it has nothing to do with what I said as I was merely pointing our how utterly wrong you were about the two being worded differently. Keyword being “worded”.

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