From the opinion:
The principal issue before us concerns the scope of the right of the people, under the provisions of the California Constitution, to change or alter the state Constitution itself through the initiative process so as to incorporate such a limitation as an explicit section of the state Constitution.There were three questions argued before the court.
(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?
It is not our role to pass judgment on the wisdom or relative merit of the current provisions of the California Constitution governing the means by which our state Constitution may be altered. (See Wright v. Jordan (1923) 192 Cal. 704, 711-712.) In the absence of an explicit subject-matter limitation on the use of the initiative to propose and adopt constitutional amendments, and in light of the history of the relevant California constitutional provisions regarding the amendment/revision distinction and the numerous California precedents interpreting and applying that distinction, we conclude the existing provisions of the California Constitution governing amendment and revision cannot properly be interpreted in the manner advocated by petitioners.
Accordingly, we hold that Proposition 8 constitutes a constitutional amendment rather than a constitutional revision.
(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution?
Because the California Constitution explicitly recognizes the right of the people to amend their state Constitution through the initiative process, the people, in exercising that authority, have not in any way impermissibly usurped a power allocated by the Constitution exclusively to the judiciary or some other entity or branch of government.
(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?
Indeed, the absence of a very clear and unambiguous statement that the measure would have the effect of invalidating the estimated 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples that already had been lawfully entered into is particularly telling in this instance, because if this asserted effect of the measure “had been brought to the attention of the electorate, it might well have detracted from the popularity of the measure.” (Evangelatos, supra, 44 Cal.3d at p. 1219.)
Id. at 132-33. The Court concludes:
Under these circumstances, we conclude that interpreting Proposition 8 to apply retroactively would create a serious conflict between the new constitutional provision and the protections afforded by the state due process clause. In the absence of a clear and unambiguous statement that the new provision is to have such an effect, the general legal guideline that requires courts to interpret potentially conflicting constitutional provisions in a manner that harmonizes the provisions, to the extent possible, further supports the conclusion that Proposition 8 properly must be interpreted to apply only prospectively.
Accordingly, applying these well-established principles of interpretation relating to the question of retroactivity, we conclude that Proposition 8 cannot be interpreted to apply retroactively so as to invalidate the marriages of same-sex couples that occurred prior to the adoption of Proposition 8. Those marriages remain valid in all respects.
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