California Proposition 8 - History of The Ballot Initiative - Pre-election Legal Challenges - Challenge To Title and Summary

Challenge To Title and Summary

The measure was titled: "Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment." The ballot summary read that the measure "changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California."

Proponents of the measure objected to the wording of the ballot title and summary on the grounds that they were argumentative and prejudicial. The resulting legal petition Jansson v. Bowen was dismissed August 7, 2008, by California Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, who ruled that "the title and summary includes an essentially verbatim recital of the text of the measure itself", and that the change was valid because the measure did, in fact, eliminate a right upheld by the California Supreme Court.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown explained that the changes were required to more "accurately reflect the measure" in light of the California Supreme Court's intervening In re Marriage Cases decision.

On July 22, 2008, Proposition 8 supporters mounted a legal challenge to the revised ballot title and summary, contending that Attorney General Brown inserted "language so inflammatory that it will unduly prejudice voters against the measure". Supporters claimed that research showed that an attorney general had never used an active verb like “eliminates” in the title of a ballot measure in the past fifty years in which ballot measures have been used. Representatives of the Attorney General produced twelve examples of ballot measures using the word "eliminates" and vouched for the neutrality and accuracy of the ballot language.

On August 8, 2008, the California Superior Court turned down the legal challenge, affirming the new title and summary, stating, "he title and summary is not false or misleading because it states that Proposition 8 would 'eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry' in California." The Superior Court based their decision on the previous Marriages Cases ruling in which the California Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry under the California Constitution." That same day, proponents of Prop. 8 filed an emergency appeal with the state appeals court. The Court of Appeal denied their petition later that day and supporters did not seek a review by the Supreme Court of California. The deadline for court action on the wording of ballot summaries and arguments in the voter pamphlet was August 11, 2008.

While turning down the challenge to the title and summary, the California Superior Court also found that the Yes on 8 campaign had overstated its ballot argument on the measure's impact on public schools and ordered a minor change in wording. The original arguments included a claim that the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage requires teachers to tell their students, as young as kindergarten age, that same-sex marriage is the same as opposite-sex marriage. The court said the Yes on 8 argument was false because instruction on marriage is not required and parents can withdraw their children. The court said the ballot argument could be preserved by rewording it to state that teachers "may" or "could" be required to tell children there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage.

Read more about this topic:  California Proposition 8, History of The Ballot Initiative, Pre-election Legal Challenges

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