SACRAMENTO (CN) – A state court judge found that the wording of the ballot label for an initiative to ban gay marriage would not steer Californians to vote against the effort to override the recent state Supreme Court decision affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The Proposition 8 ballot label, written by California Attorney General Edmund Brown, reads: “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” That title differs from the one Brown circulated in November 2007, before California’s Supreme Court issued its May 2007 decision affirming gay marriage. The November title read: “Limit on Marriage. Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in California.”
Mark Jannson, a Proposition 8 proponent, claims that the label “uses a strongly negative, active tense verb to characterize the effect of the measure (and) focuses too narrowly on the measure’s effect on same sex couples.”
But Judge Timothy Frawley found that the attorney general’s title “is an accurate statement of the primary purpose and effect of the measure. It is not argumentative or inherently prejudicial.” Specifically, Frawley found that the term “eliminates” is no more negative than “limits,” the one Jannson used in his moving papers.
Judge Frawley also dismissed Jannson’s argument that Brown’s title is argumentative because it characterized gay marriage as a “right.” That characterization is not misleading, since the California Supreme Court recognized that gay marriage is a right.
Third, Frawley rejected Jannson’s claim that the title focused more on the measure’s effects than its purpose. “This argument fails because the Attorney General is not required to distinguish between a measure’s intended consequences (purpose) and its actual consequences (effects),” Frawley wrote. Jannson says he wants to “restore the traditional meaning of marriage for all Californians,” but the initiative clearly impacts homosexual couples, regardless of Jannson’s supposed focus. “Petitioner admits that the initiative is intended to ensure that same-sex couples will not have the right to marry in California. Thus, the Court fails to see how it is prejudicial for the Attorney General to inform voters of this purpose.”
Jannson also challenged the ballot arguments submitted by Proposition 8 opponents. Opponents countered Jannson’s claim that the initiative would keep children from learning about homosexuality in school, arguing that Proposition 8 “doesn’t have anything to do with schools,” and that “no child can be forced, against the will of their (sic) parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues.” Jannson says the opposition claims are misleading because allowing same-sex marriage will change public school curriculum about the legal “aspects and responsibilities of marriage.”
However, Frawley found that any curriculum changes are speculative, and that public schools really can’t teach kids subjects their parents disallow.
Finally, Frawley dismissed Jannson’s objection to opponents’ argument that marriage and domestic partnership are not the same, since the California Supreme Court found that there is a fundamental difference between the two relationship titles.