Attorney General Kamala D. Harris filed a friend-of-the-court brief Wednesday in the United States Supreme Court arguing that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and the initiative’s sponsors do not have the right to claim to represent the interests of California by defending the law in federal court.
“Equal protection under the law is a bedrock of our Constitution and fulfills our nation’s binding principle that all people are created equal and should live free of discrimination,” said Attorney General Harris. “I look forward to the day when all Californians are granted their full civil rights and can marry the person they love.”
In August 2010, a federal district court invalidated Proposition 8 on the grounds that it violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest. Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Harris both refused to defend Proposition 8 on the basis that the law is unconstitutional.
The amicus brief lays out the harm done by Proposition 8 by preventing marriage between gay and lesbian couples.
“The sole yet profound effect of Proposition 8 was to take away the right of gay and lesbian couples to call their union a ‘marriage’ and to strip loving relationships of validation and dignity under law. It did not change any of the legal rights and responsibilities afforded same-sex couples and their children under California law,” the amicus brief states. “To be clear, Proposition 8’s sole purpose was to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. There is absolutely no legitimate or rational state interest in doing so. Proposition 8 is therefore unconstitutional.”
The brief affirms that creating a stable home for children is an important interest served by marriage under California law – and one that is furthered by allowing all couples to marry.
“The state’s interest in protecting children, including the over 50,000 children in California being raised by same-sex parents, is poorly served by allowing so many of them grow up feeling inferior because their family unit is not validated and honored by law,” the amicus brief states. “California’s interests in protecting all of its children – and their basic dignity and understanding of fairness and justice – are best served by allowing same-sex couples to enjoy the same benefits of marriage as opposite-sex couples.”
Attorney General Harris also argued that the sponsors of Proposition 8 cannot defend the law in federal court because they do not have legal standing to bring this appeal. The brief argues that, unlike state officials, the sponsors lack enforcement authority and therefore do not suffer “injury-in-fact” as a result of a federal district court’s judgment enjoining Proposition 8’s enforcement.
“The decisions below invade proponents’ interest only to the extent that they, like other voters, have a generalized interest in the enforcement of Proposition 8,” the amicus brief states. As a result, the Proposition 8 sponsors “can only assert the kind of undifferentiated interest in the validity of state law that this Court has held to be insufficient for [legal] standing.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the matter on March 26.
In May 2011, Attorney General Harris filed a similar amicus brief in California Supreme Court.