On November 4, 2008, we elected the first Black President of the United States but at the same time, voters stripped away the right to marriage equality in California. On November 5, 2024, California voters will finally have the opportunity to right the wrong made 16 years ago and remove discriminatory language from the state’s constitution in the next general election.
Proposition 8 was approved by Californians in 2008 with 52% of the vote, which instituted that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” (cite) The statewide measure halted same-sex marriages until a federal appeals court in 2010 ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional. (cite)
The case ultimately came before the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), but in 2013 it was dismissed on jurisdiction grounds meaning that “ruling private parties did not have standing to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.” (cite) The federal appeals and SCOTUS rulings cleared the way for marriage equality to resume in California. However, while not enforced, Proposition 8 has remained on the books.
This February, an effort to take Prop. 8 off the books began. (cite) A constitutional amendment was introduced in the state legislature to repeal the language that Prop. 8 enshrined into the state’s constitution. The amendment, also known as ACA 5, cleared both chambers of the legislature over the summer and will be placed on the ballot for voters to approve in the next statewide general election. (cite)
Marriage equality is the law of the land but, similar to Roe v. Wade and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, if a federal court rules against the right, state laws take effect. Justice Thomas was explicit in his intention to strip rights from the LGBTQ+ community in the aftermath of overturning abortion rights. (cite) In the wake of the SCOTUS decision to strip people of reproductive rights, voters in California passed a constitutional amendment that “prohibits the state from interfering with or denying an individual’s reproductive freedom.” (cite) We learned the hard way with abortion rights but acted quickly. In 2024, we can proactively protect LGBTQ+ rights by removing the discriminatory language of Prop. 8 from the Constitution.
There will be so many important races and measures on the 2024 general election ballot that will require us to be informed voters to make sure the election results reflect California values. It came as a surprise – to Californians and the nation – that a state typically on the forefront of progress passed Prop. 8, a regressive and discriminatory policy in 2008. If California voters unite to pass ACA 5 on November 5, 2024, regardless of how SCOTUS rules on future cases, Prop. 8 can never be used again to break up or discriminate against California families.
Keep an eye out for information on ACA 5 over the coming year to make sure that you cast the vote that aligns with your values and California’s dedication to freedom and progress.