Time to brush off those old grammar books. Can you say “transitive”?
In asking a court to toss the ballot title and summary that Attorney General Jerry Brown slapped on Prop. 8, the initiative backers take issue with the first word in the description: “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.”
“Selecting a ballot title that begins with a negative, transitive active verb (i.e. eliminates) is highly argumentative and likely to create prejudice against Proposition 8,” initiative supporters wrote in their petition to the Sacramento County Superior Court. What’s more, the pro-Prop. 8 folks went back 50 years and said they couldn’t find another ballot description that started with a negative, transitive active verb. The old titles relied instead, the filing argues, on “a neutral expression taking a noun construction.”
For example, they said, consider Prop. 17 of 1972, which restored the death penalty in California. It read “Death Penalty, Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” It did not read, as it would have in the style selected by the attorney general in the present case, “Eliminates Right of Criminals Against Cruel or Unusual Punishment,” Prop. 8 backers wrote.
Initiative opponents have filed their own ballot-language lawsuit. In that case, opponents are asking a court to strike most of the proponents’ arguments, citing “false and misleading” comments, including the assertion that “teachers will be required to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage” unless Prop. 8 passes.
“This is errant nonsense,” opponents write. “Prop. 8 says nothing about education.”
The first hearing on the lawsuits is scheduled for Aug. 7.
— Cheryl Miller