Note: This is part 2 of our traveling series on state politics. You can read about California’s governor and his tax problems here.
In response to the passage of California Proposition 8 – which banned the brief law allowing gay marriage in the state last November – one man is taking a stand on government involvement in marriage. Since the proposition was passed, the state, and nation, have seen an eruption of protest and legal challenges on the part of gay rights activists.
Joe Marcotte has filed with the California Attorney General’s office to include a ban on divorce in the state of California. The ballot proposition, entitled the “2010 California Marriage Protection Act,” aims to undermine the argument against gay marriage as a defense of traditional marriage. As Marcotte told NPR,
“Since California has decided to protect traditional marriage, I think it would be hypocritical of us not to sacrifice some of our own rights to protect traditional marriage even more,” the 38-year-old married father of two said.
California has a rich history of constitutional amendments, and is often called one of the most pure forms of direct democracy in the world. Californians voted on 21 state amendments or referendums in 2008 alone; Since 1911 voters have seen 1142 propositions in front of them. On issues ranging from the addition of a “none of the above” option on the ballot to universal health care, Californians change the language of the constitution nearly every time they go to the polls.
In order to get a proposition on the ballot that changes the constitution a person simply has to pay a registration fee ($200 which is refunded if the initiative makes the ballot) and collect signatures of registered voters equal to 8% of voters for the last gubernatorial election. This is nearly 700,000 registered voters. Because of the risk of fake names, duplicate signers, and any other problems associated with a petition, professional petitioners aim for double this count.
And, yes, there are professional petitioners. A multimillion dollar business, individuals are paid per signature to stand in front of grocery stores, universities, and public places often not caring about the issues they are petitioning and regularly presenting conflicting petitions. This is not exactly what progressive reformers had in mind a hundred years ago.
Marcotte’s recent national exposure has given this petition new energy and funding. With the LGBT community planning an amendment in 2012 to reverse Proposition 8 rather than trying in 2010, the addition of this “anti-divorce” amendment would prove a point. While likely to be deemed unconstitutional and impractical, the amendment will point out to California and the nation that there is no validity to the argument for “preserving traditional marriage.”
By Emma Sandoe