Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
California is the center of this year's round of gay marriage battles. In May, the state Supreme Court threw out a ban on same-sex marriages, calling it unconstitutional and triggering a wave of City Hall celebrations. But the right to gay marriage could be a short-lived thing, with a new ban appearing on this year's ballot.
Jerry Brown, the state's attorney general, has stepped into the heart of this dispute by changing the wording of the title and description of the initiative, which is what people will see on their ballots.
When backers of the measure circulated petitions to place the measure on the ballot, the title - approved by Brown's office - said it "amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." But last week, he abruptly changed it to say it would "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry," which carries a much different connotation.
That's from a column critical of Brown's move by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. The backers of this year's gay marriage ban have been more than critical of Brown. Yesterday, they sued in hopes of throwing out his definition.
The suit asks a judge to order a different title, such as "Limit on Marriage," the wording in the initiative petitions that 1.2 million registered voters signed to place the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Pugno said the judge could also delete Brown's heading and use the measure's brief text as its title: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Brown noted Tuesday, however, that the petitions bearing the "Limit on Marriage" title were circulated before the state's high court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples in California.
"What has happened is the Supreme Court found that the right to marriage includes same-sex couples," the attorney general said in an interview. "This happened after the original title was approved. ... Now same-sex couples have a right that's recognized and supporters of the proposition want to eliminate that right."
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