Starr frames Prop 8 as about “progressive populism”

by on February 28, 2009  •  In Marriage

Pepperdine Dean and soon-to-be Prop 8 oralist Kenneth Starr spoke recently at a Harvard Law School Federalist Society event on the topic of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence in business-related cases, then took questions about Prop 8 during the Q&A following the speech. Following are excerpts from an article in Bay Windows:

Starr’s speech drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 60 students to the Harvard Law School's Pound Hall.  As the students filed through the doors, about a half-dozen protestors handed out leaflets. Alex Crohn, a third-year law student and a member of HLS Lambda, said that "there are very few things that Ken Starr has said that are anti-gay. Our concern is more that he chose to take this case on himself. His views on the underlying policy of Proposition 8 are unclear, but as far as his decision to enforce this law, as opposed to other laws, or to uphold the constitutionality of other referendums, he decided to further this law, which has a very obvious antigay effect. And if you don’t believe in the underlying law you don’t need to be the head counsel of the group trying to uphold its constitutionality."

Starr made no reference to same-sex marriage during his formal remarks, but during a post-talk question and answer session he took questions on a wide range of topics. One student who had been part of the protest outside the function room asked Starr why he chose to represent the Prop 8 proponents and why he supported their efforts to nullify the marriages of same-sex couples who got married before the referendum’s passage.

Starr said his reason for taking the case "has to deal with the intent of the people. … The intent of the people was a complete restoration of the original definition [of marriage]." He argued that California’s tradition of "progressive populism" led the state to create a comparatively easy process for amending the state constitution by a majority referendum vote, and he said that amendment system was designed as a check on the power of public officials.


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