You have no right as a voter to defend your interests as a voter. Not in federal court.
So decides the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case about a controversial California ballot question. The court ruled 5-4 that petitioners “lack standing.” Their interest wasn’t “particularized” enough.
Passed in 2008, Proposition 8 amends the California constitution to stipulate that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Two questions must be distinguished. One, whether Proposition 8 is consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The high court could have agreed with the lower one that it isn’t. Two, whether voters – in this particular case, the official state recognized proponents of the measure – may judicially defend a law brought to ballot by themselves and duly enacted, when state officials decline to defend that law.
I’m no fan of Prop 8. But for the land’s highest court to rule that voters and petitioners have no “standing” here is a horrid precedent. It tells government officials to take heart if they dislike a law that voters have passed. Maybe not enforce or defend it at all, say — and regardless of any constitutional finding. After all, what can We the People do? It’s not as if we have standing!
Justice Kennedy, in dissent, pinpoints the default: “the Court fails to grasp or accept . . . the basic premise of the initiative process . . . The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around.”
Oh, yes, the people do have standing.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.