Calif. AG: Prop 8 backers can’t defend marriage ban

Attorney General Kamala Harris

LISA LEFF | Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s attorney general has again come out against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, this time telling the state Supreme Court the proponents of successful ballot initiatives do not have the right to defend their measures in court.

Kamala Harris, a Democrat who succeeded Gov. Jerry Brown in January as attorney general, submitted an amicus brief Monday in the ongoing legal dispute over the voter-approved ban known as Proposition 8.

In it, she argued that only public officials exercising the executive power of government have authority to represent the state when laws passed by voters or the Legislature are challenged.

“California law affords an initiative’s proponents no right to defend the validity of a successful initiative measure based only on their role in launching an initiative process,” Harris wrote.

The question of where the role of ballot measure backers ends is critical to the legal fight over California’s ban on same-sex marriages. Both Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to defend the 2008 constitutional amendment on appeal after a federal judge struck it down last summer as a violation of civil rights.

Proposition 8′s sponsors asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow them to step in, but the court punted the question to the California Supreme Court earlier this year, saying it was a matter of state law.

If the sponsors are not permitted to intervene, the lower court ruling overturning Proposition 8 will stand.

Lawyers for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that qualified the gay marriage measure for the ballot and campaigned for its passage have argued that initiative proponents need to be allowed to advocate for laws in court to prevent elected officials from effectively vetoing measures by not defending them in court.

Harris contended in her brief that rather than empowering citizens, granting the sponsors of initiatives the ability to overrule the governor and attorney general’s judgment “would rob the electors of power by taking the executive power from elected officials and placing it instead in the hands of a few highly motivated but politically unaccountable individuals.”

The California Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing in the case before the end of the year.

Republican State Sen. Tom Harman of Orange County introduced a bill that would grant ballot measure sponsors the right to represent the state when elected officials refuse to defend enacted laws in court. The Senate Judiciary Committee defeated it on a 3-2 vote Tuesday.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Sarah Palin on DOMA; anti-gay preacher Grant Storms on arrest; Prop 8 update

Grant Storms

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Grant Storms, the anti-gay Louisiana pastor who was arrested last week for allegedly jerking off in his van while looking at kids on a playground, insists he wasn’t really masturbating — he just had his hand in his pants. In a bizarre press conference Tuesday, Storms claimed that reports saying he confessed to the crime are untrue. But he also said he knows what he did was wrong, and admitted he has a problem with pornography, which he’d been looking at an hour before the incident. Also, he’s sorry for those anti-gay protests he led at Southern Decadence and is asking for forgiveness. Well, we’re not going to forgive you just yet, Mr. Storms, but we will give you some free legal advice: Shut the hell up! Towleroad has video of Storms’ press conference.

2. Taking a page out of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s playbook, Sarah Palin slammed President Barack Obama for his decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. In a statement she gave to the National Organization for Marriage, Palin accused Obama of flip-flopping on DOMA, which is course patently false. Obama has said all along that he wants to repeal DOMA. We’d suggest that if Palin wants a real example of flip-flopping, she should refer back to Leppert.

3. California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a brief Tuesday in the Prop 8 case urging a federal appeals court to allow same-sex marriages to resume immediately in the state. “For 845 days, Proposition 8 has denied equality under law to gay and lesbian couples,” Harris wrote. “Each and every one of those days, same-sex couples have been denied their right to convene loved ones and friends to celebrate marriages sanctioned and protected by California law. Each one of those days, loved ones have been lost, opportunities have been missed, and justice has been denied.”

—  John Wright