California: Gay campaigners seek review of ballot

Gay rights advocates asked California’s highest court today to keep off the November ballot a citizens’ initiative that would again ban same-sex marriage in the state.

Lawyers for Equality California filed a petition arguing that the proposed amendment to the California Constitution should be invalidated because its impact was not made clear to the millions of voters who signed petitions to qualify the measure before the state Supreme Court legalised same-sex unions.

“This court has recognised that gay and lesbian couples have a fundamental right to marry and, as of June 16, such couples have been getting married across the state,” the petition states.

“Rather than effecting ’no change’ in existing California law, the proposed initiative would dramatically change existing law by taking that fundamental right away and inscribing discrimination based on a suspect classification into our state Constitution.”

The petition also claims the so-called California Marriage Protection Act should be disqualified because it would revise, rather than amend, the state Constitution by altering its fundamental guarantee of equality for all – in essence writing a law the state high court has already found unconstitutional into the constitution.

The petition names Secretary of State Debra Bowen and the measure’s sponsors, a coalition of religious and social conservative groups called ProtectMarriage.com, as defendants.

Since Ms Bowen’s office already has certified the amendment for the fall election, she can remove it only through a court order, said Kate Folmer, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the measure’s sponsors, called the petition a desperate move it would fight.

“This is just another attempt to force a radical political agenda upon the people of California,” said Defence Fund senior counsel Glen Lavy. “The opponents of marriage are willing to use any means necessary to impose their will.”

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