Thursday, March 05, 2009

Oral Arguments

Maybe someday I'll be doing oral arguments in front of four unimpressed professors on my committee, but for now I went to the city to watch the Prop 8 oral arguments in front of the California Supreme Court. I went with my roommates, and P. was interviewed by two Spanish-language media outlets, so that was pretty cool. It was interesting in that the judges were all sorts of interrupt-y with the lawyers, and it was pretty darn clear from the get-go what opinions the judges held. Especially Associate Justice Joyce Kennard. I'm not a fan. There were some very interesting points brought up--one justice asking whether the problem isn't just that it's far too easy to amend the constitution (agreed) and another asking whether the state ought to get out of the marriage business altogether, let anybody that wants become legal partners, and let churches decide to discriminate or not without any legal effect (sounds like a plan to me). Unfortunately, great ideas though these may be, the court obviously can't implement them by fiat, and they weren't the issue before the court today. Today's issue was amendment v. revision, and that line of argument basically went like this:

Judge: The court previously held that re-instating the death penalty was not a constitutional revision, but a mere amendment. Isn't the right to live more important than the right to marry? And if so, how is eliminating the right to marry a revision?

Lawyer: Yes, the right to live is more important, but the death penalty is applied equally across all the population. Removing rights from only a suspect class is a fundamental revision to the constitution, since Article 1 Section 7 of the state constitution guarantees equal protection. If the death penalty only applied to one specific minority group, it would be a revision.

I had to teach section at noon, so I didn't get to stick around to boo Ken Starr.

I will remain hopeful, but I'd have to say that unfortunately it doesn't look good for equality this go-round. If I'm right, I guess we'll just have to grant equal rights by vote (and get rid of the 2/3 budget majority requirement while we're at it) in 2010, then make it harder to amend the constitution in 2012.

Here are a couple pics (this is actually city hall, not the courthouse, but they're in the same plaza).

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