Kendell: ‘We’re going to lose’

Posted on 26 Mar 2009 at 7:15pm
By John Wright News Editor

NCLR director says she expects decision upholding Prop 8 to come in late April, early May


Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, speaks Wednesday, March 25 during the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s 4th Anniversary Dinner and Business Excellence Awards. JOHN WRIGHT/Dallas Voice

A veteran civil rights attorney who’s closely involved with the case told Dallas Voice this week she thinks there’s a 98 percent chance the California Supreme Court will uphold Proposition 8, the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage

"We’re going to lose," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the organizations that filed the lawsuit challenging Prop 8.

"I think it was very clear from the oral arguments that the court intends to uphold Prop 8," Kendell added. "I’ve never seen a court so unequivocally telegraph their thinking."

Kendell was in Dallas on Wednesday, March 25 to speak at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s 4th Anniversary Dinner & Business Excellence Awards.

In an interview afterward, Kendell said she expects the California Supreme Court to issue its ruling in the Prop 8 case by late April or early May.

The court faces a June 3 deadline, 90 days from oral arguments, but Kendell expects the decision to come sooner rather than later.

"They have this case on a very fast trajectory and have from the very beginning," she said.

Kendell also said that she expects the court to affirm the validity of the roughly 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California before voters approved Prop 8 in November. But she said the decision to affirm the marriages "requires no courage" from the court because the law is clear on that issue.

Predicting court decisions is normally a "risky proposition," Kendell said. However, due to California’s 90-day deadline, which sets it apart from most states, justices frequently make up their minds prior to oral arguments.

"On this issue, with this court, they seem almost to intentionally communicate how they’re planning to rule," Kendell said. "The only way they can get an opinion out in 90 days is if there’s already a draft opinion."

Kendell said the court’s all-but-certain decision to uphold Prop 8 will mean the only way it can be overturned is at the ballot box. She said it would be extremely unwise to pursue a federal appeal given the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision saying there’s no federal constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry likely couldn’t be overturned for 20-30 years, and it would make state courts nationwide far less likely to rule in favor of marriage equality, Kendell said: "We certainly don’t want to do greater damage than what Prop 8 has already done."

The only question that remains, according to Kendell, is whether Prop 8 opponents should place a proposed repeal of the measure on the ballot in 2010 or in 2012. She said a vote next year would mean collecting 700,000 signatures this summer and raising another $40 million in a bad economy on the heels of last year’s campaign.

"My suspicion is that 2010 is too ambitious, and we certainly don’t want to be back on the ballot and lose," she said.

About 170 people attended Wednesday’s dinner at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre, according to Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. Attendees included Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Dallas City Councilman Dave Neumann and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

Neumann read a proclamation in support of the chamber signed by all 15 councilmembers, and Leppert urged members to oppose Proposition 1, a May ballot measure aimed at derailing a proposed city-owned convention center hotel.

Jonathan Palant, artistic director for the Turtle Creek Chorale, served as master of ceremonies, and the dinner included performances by PUMP, an LGBT youth choir affiliated with TCC.

The chamber also announced the formation of its GLBT Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, or LEAP, a nonprofit aimed at supporting youth and nurturing the development of leaders in the community.

Brandon Dowdy, board member for Youth First Texas and development associate for AIDS Arms Inc., received the chamber’s Emerging Leader Award. Jeff Youngblood and Cory Merchant received the Chairman’s Award.

Other award-winners were Thom Dance, Member Service; EDS, an HP Company, Corporate Ally; Gina Menicucci and Susan Amick, Community Service; Christopher Watts, Business Person of the Year; and FASTSIGNS of Irving/Las Colinas, Business of the Year.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2009.

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