Proposition 8: California Dreamin’

Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling in the Proposition 8 trial in California is by now somewhat old news, but I can’t help but collect some scattered thoughts about it, some of which have been, I think, underreported and underdiscussed. Full decision here.

–I have yet to find leisure to read the entire decision, but by all reports it is unusually definitive. Judge Walker published extensive findings of fact, which are far more difficult for appellate judges to ignore than conclusions of law. I suppose the defendants will on appeal have to allege that a significant number of the findings of fact are really conclusory allegations couched as fact. It would be a startling thing , though, to see an appellate judge bite on that argument enough to disregard enough of Judge Walker’s findings to make the defendants’ case compelling. It really does sound like Judge Walker took a bat to the defendants’ case, the way Brown v. Board of Education took a bat to the notion of “separate but equal.”

–I have friends and acquaintances in California, so I have to ask them: What is with your ballot initiative system of government, anyway? I understand the theory– direct government by the people, and all that– but it appears to be having the net effect of making your state ungovernable. Proposition 8 is just one example, and perhaps not the best one, since Schwarzenegger wisely decided not to waste his administration’s resources in defending it. But like so many other ballot initiatives that have passed, it has proven to be something of a donkey circus for a state that has serious problems already. Prop 8 highlights part of the problem with ballot-initiative governance– initiatives driven by whatever irrational hatreds a sufficiently driven and well-funded group can stoke up through Election Day. Say what you want about the travesty of state-house legislating– the horse-trading, the pandering to special interests, and so forth– it at least doesn’t normally produce blatantly unconstitutional nonsense.

So, Californians: Am I missing something?

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