At least 60 briefs filed in Prop 8 case

January 18, 2009 3:51:15 PM PST
Several hundred groups and individuals, ranging from churches to businesses, have weighed in with the California Supreme Court on both sides of whether Proposition 8, the state's ban on same-sex marriage, should be upheld.

The competing views were contained in at least 60 so-called "friend of the court" briefs filed in the court in San Francisco last week.

In one brief, Mountain View-based Google Inc. joined other commercial groups in arguing that Proposition 8 harms businesses and "attempts a type of constitutional change beyond the reach of the initiative power."

On the other side, the Campaign for California Families told the court that overturning Proposition 8 would "wreak havoc on the state's constitutional foundation" by devastating voters' right to pass initiatives.

Proposition 8, passed by voters on Nov. 4, amends the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

The court is considering three lawsuits in which several cities, counties and same-sex couples claim the measure is unconstitutional because it could not be enacted simply as a voter initiative.

The panel could hold a hearing as early as March and then will issue a written ruling within three months.

Advisory friend-of-the-court briefs, also known as amicus curiae briefs, are filed by people who are not official parties but who are interested in a case.

Last Wednesday's deadline for filing the amicus briefs was one of the last steps before the court sets a date to hear arguments. The final papers to be filed will be reply briefs by the official parties, due this Wednesday.

The court's docket as of Friday evening showed that 60 friend-of-the-court briefs had been filed by the Jan. 15 deadline, including 17 supporting Proposition 8 and 43 arguing it should be overturned.

A court clerk said that number was close to the final total, but that one or two more briefs might remain to be docketed.

The number is even more than the 45 friend-of-the-court briefs filed in an earlier case in which the court ruled by a 4-3 vote in May that the state constitution provides a right to same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 overturned that ruling.

Some of last week's briefs were filed on behalf of dozens of organizations or individuals, bringing the total number of voices represented to several hundred.

Some 75 civil rights groups and local bar associations joined in two briefs and more than 50 labor groups in a third brief asking the court to strike down Proposition 8.

Religious organizations, law professors and state legislators filed arguments on both sides.

A group of 65 present and former legislators headed by Democratic Assembly and Senate leaders supported the plaintiffs' argument that Proposition 8 is a constitutional revision that would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before being submitted to voters.

They wrote, "Proposition 8 is void because it seeks to make far-reaching changes to our system of government and its underlying principles without first having undergone the constitutionally required scrutiny of legislative debate, deliberation and approval."

But a second group of legislators supported the proponents of Proposition 8, arguing that overturning the initiative would unconstitutionally "alter the balance of governmental powers by expanding the role of the judiciary."

Chief Justice Ronald George has said the court hopes to hold its hearing on the case in San Francisco in March, but will wait until it has received all briefs before scheduling the hearing.