Provocative? Yes. Hyperbole? Probably. Fodder for re-wording? Not so much.
That seemed to sum up the feelings of Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley after a long Thursday afternoon of hearing challenges to the proposed ballot title, summary and arguments for Proposition 8 (.pdf).
Frawley said he’ll have a final decision on various Prop 8 petitions Friday, but at a hearing packed with lawyers, reporters and supporters and opponents of the November measure to ban gay marriage, the judge appeared reluctant to make the wholesale language changes that critics on both sides are seeking.
“For the most part, the arguments are not objectively false and misleading,” no more than the typical campaign “hyperbole,” Frawley said.
Prop 8 supporters, you’ll recall, despise the ballot label that Attorney General Jerry Brown slapped on the measure: “Eliminates Right of Same Sex Couples to Marry.” Pro-8 attorney Andrew Pugno called the words “eliminates” and “right … to marry” value-laden. But Frawley didn’t seem to be buying the argument.
“It is the law currently in the state of California, correct?” the judge said. “What if the attorney general had used the word ‘restore?’” — as in restoring California’s previous ban on same-sex marriage — “That’s just as ‘value-laden’ as the word ‘eliminate’ isn’t it?”
Frawley didn’t seem eager either to go along with opponents’ request to edit supporters’ ballot argument that the failure of Prop 8* “will force teachers to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage.”
Whatever the judge decides, he’ll have to do so quickly. The state printer has said that he needs to the final language by close of business Monday so that he can mail sample ballots to California voters before the election.
— Cheryl Miller
*Edited, adding "the failure of" to fix an obvious error, per the first comment below. (thanks, skr!)