The Equal Justice Society joined other civil rights groups today in filing an amicus brief (PDF) with the California Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8 because it would mandate discrimination against a minority group and did not follow the process required for fundamental revisions to the California Constitution.
In the amicus brief, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Equal Justice Society, California NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. argue that minority communities cannot be stripped of their fundamental rights by a simple majority vote.
“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.”
On Nov. 14, the same groups filed a writ petition with the California Supreme Court to stop the enactment of Proposition 8, but the California Supreme Court on Nov. 20 deferred action on that petition, and invited the petitioners to file an amicus curiae brief.
The brief was filed by Raymond C. Marshall of Bingham McCutchen and Prof. Tobias Barrington Wolff of University of Pennsylvania Law School on behalf of leading African American, Latino, and Asian American groups argues that Proposition 8 prevents the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of enforcing the equal protection rights of minorities.
The California Constitution requires that any measure attempting to revise the underlying principles of the constitution must first be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature before being submitted to the voters. Proposition 8 was not approved through that constitutionally required process.
The court has precedent for invalidating an improper voter initiative. In 1990, the court overruled an initiative that would have added a provision to the California Constitution stating that the “Constitution shall not be construed by the courts to afford greater rights to criminal defendants than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States.” That measure was invalid because it improperly attempted to strip California’s courts of their role as independent interpreters of the state’s constitution.