Fearing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in California could hobble the proponents of other, unrelated ballot initiatives, the president of a taxpayers group said today he is considering an effort to enshrine in the state constitution the authority of initiative proponents to defend their measures in court.
After state officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, declined to defend Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the proponents of the initiative lacked legal standing to defend the measure in court.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said he is considering a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define initiative proponents as agents of the state for the limited purpose of defending ballot measures in court.
"From what I've scanned, I think there are going to be groups on the left and right - environmental groups, labor groups - who are going to be very concerned about their ability to defend initiatives in the courts," Coupal said. "It's very concerning that the validity of their sponsored initiative would depend on an adequate defense by an elected official when the whole reason for the initiative process is to bypass the political structure. ... The initiative process is the people's process, and this really shifts the defense of that process to those that are, on the natural, hostile to it."
The taxpayers group has been a proponent of various ballot initiatives for years but was uninvolved in Prop. 8, except to argue that the proponents of the initiative should have legal standing, Coupal said.
He said he is seeking a legal opinion on the matter. As an organization, he said, "We have to kick this around."
PHOTO: Jon Coupal at his office in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling