There are two ballot initiative measures in circulation related to a proposed constitutional Convention. The first measure is titled the Citizens Constitutional Convention Act and would amend the existing California Constitution to allow a simple majority of California voters to call a constitutional convention. Currently, the state legislature must authorize a constitutional convention.
The second constitutional initiative measure being circulated is a mandate for forming a the actual constitutional convention commission under the aegis of the Fair Political Practices Commission. The Commission will determine the site and dates of the convention. The deadline for submitting the constitutional initiative petition signatures to the Secretary of State for validation is January 11th, 2010.
This constitutional convention could have adverse consequences for the restoration of marriage equality for members of the LGBT community. First, because the constitutional convention would not be allowed to take up marriage, abortion, and some other restricted matters, and, second, because one of the purposes of such a convention would be to raise the threshold for amending the California Constitution from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority. This would make it virtually impossible to overturn the abolition of marriage equality that was put into the California Constitution with the passage of Proposition 8 in November of 2008.
According to “Repair California”, the group that is pushing the constitutional convention initiatives, roughly 70% of California voters support holding the convention to rewrite the California Constitution. If this group’s claims are accurate then it appears to be a near certainly that the convention will be approved by the voters in 2010. Such a convention will take place in 2011 and the revisions will then be submitted to the voters for approval in 2012.
Should the LGBT community wait until 2012 to make a concerted effort to wrest back their right to marry? Should they wait until 2012 on the theory that it will take that long to change enough minds for equality to prevail at the ballot box? But what happens if and when the Constitution is amended to require a two thirds vote in order to restore marriage equality in November of 2012? What will happen if the higher amendment threshold is passed in June of 2012?
The faction within the LGBT community that is holding out for 2012 to take it back to the ballot assert that the political climate of a presidential election will be more amenable to a youth turnout that would yield a better margin for LGBT rights. If that is true, then how can Obama’s vote in California in 2008 be reconciled with the vote for repeal of marriage equality?
No one knows what the political lay of the land will look like in 2012. Right now, Obama is alienating a lot of the progressive base. These are the same progressives who supplied much of his 2008 margin of victory. What happens if the progressive base becomes ever more disenchanted? What happens if they stay home in November, 2012?
The safest and wisest path to restoration of marriage equality is to support the Restoration of Marriage Equality Initiative for the November 2010 ballot. The 2012 holdout faction within the LGBT community needs to realize the very real risks the whole community faces by holding out. Waiting until the constitutional amendment threshold is raised could forever put marriage equality beyond reach for those who did not make it in during the brief window of marriage equality in 2008. Delaying justice so that it is forever denied is not a viable option for me. Delaying equality and justice to those who are no longer able to exercise the right that was taken away from them in 2008 should not be an acceptable option for anyone.
Jay Hubbell is the founder of Fresno Stonewall Democrats and a volunteer with the Restore Marriage Equality 2010 campaign.