California Labor Joins Prop. 8 Battle

QUEERTY REPORTS–In a move that widens the playing field, 50 California labor organizations, including United Healthcare Workers (UHW) and the California Labor Federation, will join the Prop. 8 battle this Friday by filing an amicus brief urging the California Supreme Court to overrule the same-sex marriage ban.

It’s a major step toward demonstrating to the court that Proposition 8 is not simply a threat to gays and lesbians, but to all Californians. The labor organization’s argument is one of the most appealing we’ve seen so far on why the court should overturn the ban, not just because it comes from such a wide variety of well-established political organizations, but because it makes a strong case that Prop. 8 is not so much a change to the Constitution as it a vial of poison that, if enacted, would put democracy in California in the critical care ward.

The Supreme Court will rule sometime in March on whether Prop. 8 is valid, but the legal argument against is based on a technicality–that Prop. 8 supporters did not follow the proper procedure for a measure with such sweeping implications. Labor’s amicus adds some meat to the argument.

Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO told reporters yesterday: “We believe Prop. 8 is improper and it’s immoral and it’s also legally invalid. We have an interest not only in defending the rights of our members, but we have an interest in defending the constitution of California.”

But it was United Health Workers-West President Sal Rosselli who explained why labor is interested in seeing the measure overturned:

There are fundamental constitutional rights that cannot be abolished by ballot initiative. Our organizations stand for fairness and equality for working people–not only in the workplace but in all aspects of society. Today we are standing up for all California families in asking the court to overturn…

Us defending the right of gay people to marry, us defending this civil right is fundamentally important because well, there’s a slippery slope and wealthy bigoted people could organize votes of the electorate to take away other civil rights.

He cited the example of the right to picket, something which is guaranteed by the state Constitution in California, but which is illegal in Alabama.

Why is this important? Well beyond the fact that so many groups joined in the amicus (full list at the end of this article), it’s one of the first signs that the issues of marriage equality and nondiscrimination that are at the heart of the modern gay political movement are being recognized as part of a larger notion of freedom and equality for all. Put it this way–enlisting the aid of non-gay people to work for LGBT equality is a lot easier if those people recognize that they have a stake in the battle. The idea that fundamental rights – and the Supreme Court called the right to marry “an inalienable” one – can be amended by simple majority vote should scare anyone who enjoys those freedoms, and as Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign was quick to point out in the conference call yesterday, “in California, everyone is a minority; we’re a majority-minority state, so this effects everyone.”

The members of the amicable coalition are:

* California Labor Federation
* National Federation of Federal Employees
* Screen Actors Guild
* UNITE HERE!
* Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Counties Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
* Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* San Mateo County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* South Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* California Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
* California Faculty Association
* American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, District Council 57, AFL-CIO
* American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 2019, AFL-CIO
* American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 2428, AFL-CIO
* American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3299, AFL-CIO
* American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3916, AFL-CIO
* American Federation of Teachers, Local 6119,Compton Council of Classified Employees
* American Federation of Teachers, Local 6157, San Jose/Evergreen Faculty Association, AFL-CIO
* El Camino College Federation of Teachers, Local 1388, California Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
* United Educators of San Francisco, AFT/CFT Local 61, AFL-CIO, NEA/CTA
* University Council-American Federation of Teachers
* Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
* Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Council 97
* Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Council 99
* Communications Workers of America District 9, AFL-CIO
* Communications Workers of America, Local 9000, AFL-CIO
* Communications Workers of America, Local 9503, AFL-CIO
* Communications Workers of America, Local 9505, AFL-CIO
* Communications Workers of America, Local 9421, AFL-CIO
* Communications Workers of America, Local 9575, AFL-CIO
* District Council of Ironworkers of the State of California and Vicinity
* Jewish Labor Committee Western Region
* Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund
* National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1450
* Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 300, AFL-CIO
* Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 400, AFL-CIO
* Pride at Work, AFL-CIO
* SEIU California State Council
* SEIU Local 521
* SEIU Local 721
* SEIU Local 1000
* SEIU Local 1021
* SEIU Local 1877
* SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
* Teamsters Joint Council 7, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
* Teamsters Local 853, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
* United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 5
* UNITE HERE Local 19
* United Steelworkers, Local 5, Martinez, Ca.
* University Professional and Technical Employees, Communications Workers of America, Local 9119, AFL-CIO

We’re really interested to hear your thoughts on where this battle is headed. Will the argument that Prop. 8 shreds the Constitution hold water with the Supreme Court? Or will the fact that there’s precious little case law to support overturning the will of the voters win out?