This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
California's attorney general, the state's chief law officer, has the duty to uphold the California Constitution.
So what is the duty of Attorney General Jerry Brown on Proposition 8, the voter-approved ballot initiative that changed the state constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage?
There's no hiding from the issue, which is before the California Supreme Court. A March hearing and a ruling within three months are coming.
At first, Brown's stance was technical: The amendment was properly passed by voters and he would defend it in court.
Now, however, he has reversed himself, saying it is his job to defend the whole California Constitution – not just the power of voters to amend the Constitution.
This is the right course.
Brown rightly notes that the Proposition 8 case poses a conflict between the constitution's Declaration of Rights (Article I, Section 1) and the power of the voters to amend the constitution (Article XVIII, Section 3). He concludes that the state Supreme Court should "harmonize the two constitutional provisions" to safeguard "both the legal rights of minorities and the people's right to direct democracy."
How to do this? Article I, Section 1 states that all people have "inalienable rights," including life and liberty, property, safety, happiness, and privacy.
Brown argues that any measure that would abolish these fundamental rights must have a "compelling reason" for doing so – it must be necessary to provide for public health, safety or welfare.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.