Supporters of a California amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman have said they will file a lawsuit challenging California attorney general Jerry Brown’s decision to rewrite the wording of the measure, arguing the new phrasing is “inherently argumentative” and “inflammatory.”
The original wording says the amendment, called Proposition 8, “amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Last week Brown’s office changed the proposition’s title from “Limit on Marriage Constitutional Amendment” to “Eliminates Right of Same-sex Couples to Marry,” the California Catholic Daily reports.
The proposition’s summary now reads “Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The summary says the initiative could lead to “revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments,” but also indicates there would likely be little impact state and local governments’ fiscal budgets.
Brown spokesman Gareth Lacy told the San Jose Mercury News that such changes in ballot wording often occur and claimed the change was necessary after the state Supreme Court, in what he called an “extremely important” decision, recognized same-sex marriage as a right.
Proponents and opponents of the measure both agreed the changes will make voters less likely to approve it because it asks voters to remove an existing right.
“What Proposition 8 would do is eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, which is exactly what the attorney general put in the title of the measure,” Steve Smith, campaign manager for No on Proposition 8, who also claimed it would be “very difficult” for proposition backers to win their lawsuit.
Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for Protect Marriage, said the new language was “inherently argumentative” and a “complete about-face” from the title assigned during signature gathering.
“We feel the ballot language is so inflammatory that it will unduly prejudice voters against the measure,” Kerns said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. She said the attorney general had not fulfilled his duty to provide ballot titles and summaries that are “fair, accurate and not prejudicial.”
“Proposition 8 simply seeks to restore the definition of marriage back to its original meaning of the previous 158 years of California statehood,” Kerns commented in an e-mail statement to CNA, saying its proponents simply seek a “fair, accurate ballot title and summary.”
“At the end of the day, it should be the people of California – not the Attorney General – who decides what their opinion of a ballot measure is,” she continued.
Protect Marriage claimed that research shows the attorney general has never used an active verb like “eliminates” in the title of a ballot measure in the fifty years in which ballot measures have been used.
According to a July 18 Field Poll, 42 percent of voters surveyed supported the measure, while 51 percent said they opposed it.
However, Frank Schubert, Proposition 8 campaign manager, argued that the Field Poll has “consistently understated support for the initiative,” citing a Los Angeles Times poll that showed support at 54 percent.