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California attempts to enshrine right to same-sex marriage

In a move to ensure marriage equality in California, Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation to rescind Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative that banned same-sex marriages in the state 15 years ago. The constitutional amendment still remains on the books, and activists are concerned that the US Supreme Court might revisit the case that legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015, leading to the nullification of the law.

The proposed measure would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and a referendum to be approved, as it seeks to enshrine marriage equality in the state constitution. California is seeking to follow Nevada’s footsteps, which became the first state to amend its constitution to ensure the right to same-sex marriage in 2020.

Democratic Assembly Member Evan Low and state Senator Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, are co-sponsoring the legislation, hoping to overturn Proposition 8. Low has been an advocate of marriage equality and actively campaigned against the initiative before it was passed. “Why do fellow Californians hate me? Why do they feel that my rights should be eliminated?” he asked.

The US Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the right to an abortion established by Roe v. Wade has raised concerns about other landmark cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Justice Clarence Thomas has urged the court to reconsider prominent cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges.

In December 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to recognize same-sex marriages. However, the legislation does not force states to allow them if Obergefell is overturned. Wiener and Low are hoping to replicate the process under which state voters in November approved a constitutional change guaranteeing the right to abortion.

Support for marriage equality has rapidly expanded since the Obergefell ruling, even among religious organizations. Although Mormon groups helped fund the Proposition 8 campaign in California, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has come out in support of the Respect for Marriage Act. Tony Hoang, executive director of Equality California, is optimistic that the group can help build a large supportive coalition for the proposed amendment, stating, “I know this will be a bipartisan campaign.”

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