Corporations and trade unions condemn California’s ban on gay marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Major corporations and groups representing Mexican-Americans, Christians, and African-Americans have filed friend of the court briefs in California in support of gay marriage.

Levi Strauss & Co, Google, a coalition of more than 50 California labour organisations representing two million workers, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and dozens of scholars from Harvard University, Stanford University and Yale University and many others oppose the validity of Proposition 8.

The ballot measure, which denies gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, passed with 52% of the vote on election day, November 4th.

Since then gay marriages have been banned in the state.

In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled against a previous Proposition approved in 2000 that defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.

The court ruled that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians.

Proposition 8 challenged this ruling by explicitly denying gay people the right to marry.

18,000 same-sex couples got married before Prop 8 passed.

On November 19, 2008, the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, and established an expedited briefing schedule, under which briefing will be completed this month.

Oral argument potentially could be held as early as March.

Dozens of amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs have been filed arguing that Proposition 8 drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California’s Constitution, and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.

They call on the California Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8.

Leading African American, Latino, and Asian American civil rights groups have filed a brief arguing that Proposition 8 prevents the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of enforcing the equal protection rights of minorities.

“We would be making a grave mistake to view Proposition 8 as just affecting the LGBT community,” said Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society.

“If the Supreme Court allows Proposition 8 to take effect, it would represent a threat to the rights of people of color and all minorities.”

In a brief filed on January 14th the California Council of Churches and other religious leaders and faith organisations representing millions of members discussed the harm Proposition 8 poses to religious minorities.

“Proposition 8 poses a grave threat to religious freedom,” said Rev. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of the California Council of Churches.

“If the Court permits same-sex couples to be deprived of equal protection by a simple majority vote, religious minorities could be denied equal protection as well, a terrible injustice in a nation founded by people who emigrated to escape religious persecution.

“If the Court permits Proposition 8 to take effect, religious discrimination similarly could be written into California’s Constitution.”

Other briefs supporting the legal challenge were filed on behalf of 66 current and former California legislators; the California League of Women Voters; dozens of bar associations, civil rights, and legal aid organisations; a number of California cities; and numerous children’s advocacy organisations and LGBT civil rights organisations, including the National Centre for Youth Law, Legal Services for Children, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.