Proposition 8

February 8, 2012 by staff 

Proposition 8, Proposition 8 (ballot title: Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment; called California Marriage Protection Act by proponents) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

By restricting the recognition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the proposition overturned the California Supreme Court’s ruling of In re Marriage Cases that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The wording of Proposition 8 was precisely the same as that which had been found in Proposition 22, which had passed in 2000 and, as an ordinary statute, had been invalidated by the State Supreme Court in 2008. California’s State Constitution put Proposition 8 into immediate effect the day after the election. The proposition did not affect domestic partnerships in California, nor same-sex marriages performed before November 5, 2008.

Proponents of the constitutional amendment argued that exclusively heterosexual marriage was “an essential institution of society,” that leaving the constitution unchanged would “result in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay,” and that “gays … do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.” Opponents argued that “the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society,” that the California constitution “should guarantee the same freedom and rights to everyone” and that the proposition “mandates one set of rules for gay and lsbn couples and another set for everyone else.” They also argued that “equality under the law is a fundamental constitutional guarantee” (see Equal Protection Clause).

The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $39.9 million and $43.3 million, respectively, becoming the highest-funded campaign on any state ballot and surpassing every campaign in the country in spending except the presidential contest. After the elections, demonstrations and protests occurred across the state and nation. Same-sex couples and government entities filed numerous lawsuits with the California Supreme Court challenging the proposition’s validity and effect on previously administered same-sex marriages. In Strauss v. Horton, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, but allowed existing same-sex marriages to stand (under the grandfather clause principle).

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