05 November 2008

Around The Nation

Good news in New York State

Democrats captured control of the state Senate on Tuesday for the first time in more than 40 years, knocking off at least two Republican incumbent senators.

A third Republican incumbent was locked in a tight race . . .

If the results hold up, the Senate next year will have 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans. That will give Democrats control of every statewide office and both houses of the Legislature for the first time since the Great Depression.

From here.

New York State's legislative process has been fraught with gridlock for as long as I can remember. Maybe this will change the tide.

Bad News For Gay Rights

According to CNN a variety of anti-gay rights measures passed.

Gay marriage was banned in Arizona (Prop 102), California (Prop 8), and Florida (Amendment 2). Gay adoptions were banned in Arkansas (Initiative 1). The California measure was particularly troubling as many Californians have entered into same sex marriages during the period when the California Supreme Court declared that gay marriage was a state constitutional right this year. The California vote was 52-48 with 95% of the vote counted.

Good News For Choice

South Dakota defeated an abortion limitation measure (Initiative 11), as did California (Prop 4). Colorado defeated the "egg as a person" Amendment 48. Michigan voted to allow stem cell research. A measure allowing doctor assisted suicide passed in Washington State (Initiative 1000).

Editors at the South Dakota Argus Leader aren't too familiar with what abortion is, however. Terry Woster, writing in a November 5, 2008 write up on the South Dakota vote for the measure reported that "The margin for Initiated Measure 11- a proposed law to criminalize abortion unless done in cases of rape or pregnancy or to safe the life or health of a woman- was 55-45 with 736 of 799 precincts reported early Wednesday." Perhaps South Dakotans simply weren't too impressed with the pregnancy exception.

Other Measures

Michigan joined the ranks of states legalizing medical marijuana under state law. Given the current administration, this looks like a hopeful possibility.

An anti-immigration measure in Arizona (Prop 202) failed.

A measure ending affirmative action passed in Nebraska (Intiative 424), but the measure to end affirmative action in Colorado (Initiative 46) is very close but looks likely to fail.


Anonymous said...

I was surprised that amending the California constitution required a simple majority. Gay marriage would almost certainly have been banned by now in Massachusetts if it was that easy. The LA Times article, "Gay rights backers file 3 lawsuits challenging Prop. 8," discusses the distinction between an amendment and a revision:

"Jennifer Pizer, a staff lawyer for Lambda Legal, said the initiative met the test of a revision because it had far-reaching magnitude.

'The magnitude here is that you are effectively rendering equal protection a nullity if a simple majority can so easily carve an exception into it,' she said. 'Equal protection is supposed to prevent the targeting and subjugation of a minority group by a simple majority vote.'"

The majority opinion in the May ruling was based on the equal protection clause, calling sexual orientation, "like gender, race, and religion--a constitutionally suspect basis upon which to impose differential treatment." Whether you agree with the ruling or not, I don't see how the same court could conclude that proposition eight doesn't constitute a revision.

Michael Malak said...

Since proposition 8 is an amendment, doesn't that by definition supercede the pre-existing equal protection clause?

It does indeed sound like it's too easy to amend the California Constitution (as it is too easy to amend the Colorado Constitution).

(Recall that my position on gay marriage is that the government should not be in the business of marriage at all -- i.e. ban all government marriages, and relegate it to the churches and/or the lawyer-written pre-nups)

Anonymous said...

That's the question raised by the suits: can a simple amendment supersede the equal protection clause? The May ruling put sexual orientation in the same category as gender, race, and creed, so it's likely that the court will rule proposition eight to be improper, that it should be subject to the more rigorous process of a revision.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

In any other state, Prop 8 would be a done deal. There is one precedent in California however (drawn in part from a U.S. Supreme Court case from Colorado involving gay rights), that says that not all measures can be amendment via the initative process. It is a long shot, but we'll see.

Most states allow constitutional amendments by majority vote. Eastern states make it hard to get initiatives on the ballot (if not impossible). Western states make it easy (Colorado is easiest of them all and California is close).