The fight to overturn Proposition 8, the controversial measure that bans gay marriage in California made its way to court today.
Hundreds gathered outside a California Supreme Court in San Francisco to watch on a big screen as the seven justices heard arguments for and against the validity of the law.
Lawyers representing gay rights groups, couples and a number of local governments argued that the ban on gay marriage is a drastic change to the constitution that deprives a minority of fundamental rights, and as such Proposition 8 was not within the boundaries allowed by such initiatives.
Proposition 8 supporters, led in court by former Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth M. Starr, told the court that a simple majority could limit rights up to and including free speech under a state constitution that gives citizens broad power to legislate through the ballot box. “The people do have the raw power to define rights,” said Starr. “The people are sovereign and they can do very unwise things, and things that tug at the equality principle.”
The attempt to throw out Proposition 8 looks in doubt, with Chief Justice Ronald George, previously a supporter of gay marriage saying that “there have been initiatives that have taken away rights from minorities by majority vote” and have been upheld by the courts. Justice Joyce Kennard, also previously a gay marriage supporter, said the challenge to Proposition 8 involved “a completely different issue” from the court’s ruling that the marriage laws violated gays’ and lesbians’ rights to be treated equally and wed the partner of their choice.