(Sacramento, CA, September 1, 2005) — Voters will be given clear information on the devastatingly broad impact of a proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment after Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raymond M. Cadei today finalized language for petitions for the measure. Judge Cadei agreed with the Attorney General and groups that intervened in the case, who contended that the official summary must clearly explain that the fact that the constitutional amendment would eliminate benefits, rights, and responsibilities now guaranteed by California’s domestic partnership laws.
Proponents of the so-called “Voters’ Right to Protect Marriage Initiative” wanted the official summary to focus on the measure’s supposed “protections” for marriage, when, in fact, the measure protects nothing. The constitutional amendment takes away rights from domestic partners and families in addition to permanently banning marriage equality for same-sex couples. Because it amends the constitution, the measure strips legislatures and courts of the authority to restore these rights.
“These anti-gay groups failed in their effort to play bait-and-switch with voters,” says Courtney Joslin, senior counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the attorneys representing couples and community groups who joined the case. “Today’s ruling ensures that Californians will see this measure exactly for what it is – a mean-spirited attempt to write discrimination into the state constitution and to take away protections from domestic partners and families.”
Dave Fratello of Equality for All, the campaign against the amendment said, “The sponsors of this amendment have already laid bare their strategy. They will attempt to mislead voters at every stage of their campaign. They will pretend that their measure is simple when, in fact, the amendment is designed to harm tens of thousands of families. We will not let them get away with this deception. We will bring the truth to the voters and defeat this initiative.”
Two couples who are registered domestic couples, Equality California, the State’s LGBTQ Rights Organization that sponsored the domestic partner legislation that the amendment seeks to repeal, and Equality for All, the Campaign Committee opposing the initiative. — were permitted by Judge Cadei to join the litigation on August 18. At a hearing on that day, Judge Cadei agreed with the Attorney General that his title for the measure, “Marriage. Elimination of Domestic Partnership Rights,” was more accurate than the proponents’ “Protect Marriage” language. Today, the court finalized language detailing the major rights that would be lost if this measure were adopted by the voters. These include insurance and death benefits for dependents of government and some private employees, the automatic right to make medical decisions for sick family members, and the right to inherit family property if one partner dies without a will.
“We are pleased that the court has decided to let Californians see what is really at stake in this punitive initiative,” said Brian Chase, staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles. “The court agreed that this initiative is aimed at stripping away the rights and responsibilities of thousands of California’s families.”
The proponents may now begin to collect signatures on petitions in an attempt to qualify the measure for the ballot next year; however, they are required to use the more accurate language that was approved by the court today when soliciting voter signatures.
“The Court is ensuring that voters be told that these measures will repeal all legal protections for tens of thousands of domestic partners and their children that have been legally granted over the past six years. The opposition will no doubt continue their campaign of lies but fortunately the ballot book will speak the truth,” said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California.
The case is Bowler v. Lockyer. Court documents can be found atwww.lambdalegal.org. In addition to NCLR and Lambda Legal, the intervenors are represented by Margaret Prinzing and Karen Getman of Remcho Johansen and Purcell, election law experts based in San Leandro, California and Christine Sun, Tamara Lange, and Jordan Budd of the ACLU Foundations of California.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.