After a Tough Week, Jerry Brown Steps Up for Gays on Prop 8

The news cycle last week presented something of a see-saw ride for gays and their supporters in California and the nation. First came the devastating news that Barack Obama had invited Rick Warren, one of California’s most prominent advocates of anti-gay Proposition 8, to give the opening prayer at his inauguration next month.

“Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification.”
— Cal. Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown

Prop 8’s passage was a real buzzkill for gays and civil rights advocates on Election Day. Giving a bigot a prominent spot at the ceremony has voided the historical significance of inaugurating the country’s first African-American president for them, too.

But on Friday came news that California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, filed a legal brief urging the state Supreme Court to void Proposition 8:

In a dramatic reversal, Brown filed a legal brief saying the measure that amended the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman is itself unconstitutional because it deprives a minority group of a fundamental right. Earlier, Brown had said he would defend the ballot measure against legal challenges from gay marriage supporters.

But Brown said he reached a different conclusion “upon further reflection and a deeper probing into all the aspects of our Constitution.”

“It became evident that the Article 1 provision guaranteeing basic liberty, which includes the right to marry, took precedence over the initiative,” he said in an interview Friday night. “Based on my duty to defend the law and the entire Constitution, I concluded the court should protect the right to marry even in the face of the 52 percent vote.”

He also said:

“Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification.”

Brown’s office would normally be tasked with defending Prop 8 in the litigation before the Supreme Court this spring. But Brown is saying Prop 8 is indefensible, and so his staff can’t defend it.

Brown is said to be considering running for governor next year. If he and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, a truly fierce advocate of gay rights, both run, California gays, their supporters and civil rights advocates will have a tough time deciding whom to support.

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