The following is a short response for an in-class quiz we had today in Introduction to Law. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and so I was pretty excited to be able to take a stab at determining its validity. Since the following was an in-class quiz, it should not be considered as a thorough argument. I picked a response format similar to a Supreme Court Majority Opinion.
The facts being evaluated are two fold: A) Is Ms. Sykes sill married? and B) Is California’s Proposition 8 allowed under the United States Constitution.
In the matter of Ms. Sykes current marital status, several facts must first be established. We will assume that Ms. Sykes was legally married to another person of the same sex under California State law and such marriage was valid and recognized. Second, we shall assume that Proposition 8 is now a part of the California State Constitution and in full effect. Finally we shall assume that, for the purposes of this question only, Proposition 8 is constitutional.
Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution states, in part, that “No state shall…pass any…ex post factor law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts.” The rule prohibiting ex post fact law is not applicable in this instance because the issue does not deal with anything criminal. That is to say, Proposition 8 does not make same sex relationships illegal, it just does not deem a marriage between people of the same sex as valid or recognized.
The second part of the quited Article 1, Section 10 address the obligation of contracts. Marriage is the joining of two people to become one. Taxes are filled jointly, property is owned jointly, and certain legals privileges exist between spouses because of their joint operation. In fact, for a marriage to be legal, both parties must sign documents that, for all intents and purposes, is a legally binding contract. To allow for the passing of a law which impairs the obligation of that contact is thus unconstitutional. Held: Under Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution, Wanda Sykes is still married and her marriage is valid and recognized in the State of California.
In the matter of the constitutionality of Proposition 8, it would seem that the afore argued point would be significant cause to declare the proposition as unconstitutional as it is written. However, we shall endeavor to further prove this point. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution states, in part, that “No state shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protect of the laws.” This amendment and the subsequent Brown v. Board of Education (347 US 483, 1954) ruling lay the groundwork. It would seem self-evident that denying the marriage of two people because of their sex would be denying them equal protection under the law. It was not that long ago that a black person was not legally allowed to marry a white person or that black children and white children were to be educated in separate but “equal” schools. We fine this law to be no different in its meaning or intent: to disenfranchise a particular class of individual because one thinks lesser of them.