As California's Proposition 8 moves more and more noisily and messily toward that fabled and oft-mentioned dustbin of history, I wanted to discuss a sound-bite I heard on an NPR story last week. After the verdict, at a rally in support of the law, a speaker said that the courts has taken away the "civil right to vote" by invalidating it. This kind of thing, I am quite sure, resonates not only with supporters of Prop 8, but supporters of legal segregation and all sorts of other current and former discriminatory legal social structures. That's part of the problem with our system of government. We are, in the end, a Republic of laws not of human beings; a Republic, not a democracy. Direct democracy, as practiced in California is part of that state's many problems.
One of the many lessons that should have emerged from the many court battles over racial equality (but apparently need to be learned again and again) is that there is a legal limit to the lengths to which states me express their social preferences. Respect for the legal rights of others is a bar to discrimination, even those kinds of discrimination that are enacted with the full consent of the people.
As for discounting the supporter's "findings of fact", the judge was explicit that it concerned the whole question of standing, important in any legal case. Not just anyone can sue; an individual or group must show that direct harm will ensue either by a law's enactment or repeal; since there was no factual basis for the claims of harm, the judge dismissed the claims of harm and therefore standing. This bodes well moving forward. Also, it seems that an appeal can only be made by the State of California, officials of which refuse to do so, which clouds the future of any appeals process.