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Que Pasa? Understanding California's Prop 8 Hearings

Crowds gathered outside San Francisco's Supreme Court today while inside the court argued the hair-splitting details of the California Constitution and what it takes to change it.

The court has 90 days to make two major decisions: First, whether Prop 8, which eliminated the right to same-sex marriage, should be upheld or overturned. And second, whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages that already took place should remain valid.

It comes down to two words, really — amend and revise. The court needs to decide whether Prop 8 amends the constitution or revises it. The difference? A revision is a fundamental change that no ballot proposition can pass. It requires support from two-thirds of the state legislature and a follow-up majority vote by the people. Because same-sex marriage was deemed an "inalienable right" by the court last year, gay-rights proponents see it as a revision. On the other hand, an amendment is a routine change that simply requires a majority vote, like Prop 8 got with its 52 percent, and no legislative approval.

So while we wait till June for a decision, a new question emerges: Should it be harder to change a constitution?






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