March 26, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Calif. AG: Prop 8 case is about ‘fundamental notions of justice’
Kamala Harris, National Council of La Raza, California, gay news, Washington Blade

National Council of La Raza honored California Attorney General Kamala Harris in D.C. on March 5. (Photo courtesy of National Council of La Raza)

California Attorney General Kamala Harris told the Washington Blade on Tuesday she feels the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold two previous rulings that found her state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

“I think it went well,” she said after the justices heard oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case. “It was clear that this is a case that is about fundamental notions of justice and equality and liberty.”

Harris, who declined to defend Prop 8 after her 2010 election, said the Supreme Court has described marriage “as a fundamental right” 14 times since the 1880s. She added she feels the justices’ questions effectively discredited the proponents’ arguments in support of the same-sex marriage ban that California voters approved in 2008.

“The conversation that was had about the significance of procreation, especially through [Justice Elena] Kagan’s questions highlighted the fact that that’s probably the most bogus distinction that is being offered by the proponents,” Harris said. “On the issue of standing, it’s certainly been our position that Mr. [Dennis] Hollingsworth [of Protect Marriage] has no standing in that there’s no direct harm that would result to him from allowing Ms. [Kristin] Perry to be married to her partner of 16 years with whom she shares a child.”

Harris also discussed comparisons same-sex marriage supporters, legal scholars and others have made between the Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases and the Supreme Court’s landmark Loving v. Virginia decision that struck down remaining state interracial marriage bans in 1967.

“It was one of those 14 cases that outlined the fact that marriage is a fundamental right,” she said. “It also outlined the fact that government should not interfere with the freedom to marry. And it articulated that the 14th Amendment means having an equal right to the sanctity of marriage.”

Harris further reiterated her point.

“You cannot hold up people’s fundamental constitutional rights,” she said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

A poll conducted on behalf of San Francisco television station KPIX between March 22-24 found 67 percent of Californians back marriage rights for same-sex couples. Fifty-two percent of respondents said the Supreme Court should uphold two lower court rulings that found Prop 8 unconstitutional.

A Field Poll last month found 61 percent of Californians approve marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“More important than reading the polls is reading the Constitution,” Harris said in response to a question about whether she feels increased public support of marriage rights for same-sex couples could potentially influence the justices. “That reading should direct the court to protect these same-sex couples’ right to marry.”

She acknowledged abortion remains a controversial issue more than 40 years after the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision. Harris pointed out that interracial marriages are no longer contentious in this country.

“It’s not only about polls,” she said, noting President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Clinton are among those who have publicly backed same-sex marriage. “Republican leaders have come out. Fortune 500 leaders, athletes have all come out saying they’re in favor of this. Of what? In favor of not denying people a constitutional right and that’s really is the issue here. We should not be standing in the way of fellow citizens’ equal rights.”

Harris also responded to the Blade’s question about Justice Antonin Scalia’s repeated use of male pronouns to refer to her during the oral arguments.

“He obviously got my gender wrong,” she joked. “But he certainly got the position correct, which is that we are arguing for the court to do the right thing and decide the issue and decide that the Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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