Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 11, 2008

Taking the good with the bad

“The good things in life are not to be had singly but come to us with mixture.” ~ British writer Charles Lamb

Last week, I wondered if my post-election sigh would be one of relief or disappointment. As I survey election results from national, state and local races, I find lots of reasons to celebrate – and one major disappointment.

Anyone who has read my columns over the last several months knows that I’m thrilled that my fellow Americans judged Barack Obama to be the best man for the difficult job of leading this country at this precarious time. As MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann put it, “Turns out the country was in the tank for Obama.”

While I’m sure that as president, Obama will make mistakes, it’s clear that our country will be moving in a better direction under his leadership. And all by itself, that’s a vast improvement over the last eight years.

However, with the size of the challenges increasing and resources diminishing, it will take the Obama administration longer to achieve its goals than we’d like. But the change in direction is already under way, and that heartens me.

Obama’s victory and the gains that his fellow Democrats made in the House of Representatives and Senate show that voters rejected the Bush-Cheney-McCain conservative ideology that brought our beloved nation to its current sorry state. With this election, Americans demonstrated that they understand that excessive deregulation, arrogant foreign policy, incompetent execution of a misguided domestic agenda, and contempt for the Constitution have failed us.

I’m incredibly relieved that, as a nation, we’ve finally decided to follow a very different course.

Locally, I’m excited that Gilroyans passed Measure F, which will fund construction of a much-needed new library, and Measure P, a $150 million school bond that will allow the Gilroy Unified School District to complete Christopher High School.

That these bond measures succeeded in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations speaks volumes about the wisdom of Gilroyans in valuing education, literacy and keeping tax dollars under local control.

I’m also pleased that voters approved Measure A, a bond measure to seismically upgrade Valley Medical Center. A hospital that can withstand a large earthquake is not a luxury in earthquake country, it’s a necessity.

However, the failure of Morgan Hill’s Measure H is confusing and disappointing. It failed by a mere 44 votes: 6,399 in favor, 6,355 against. The measure, which would have made it easier for builders to develop housing units downtown, had no organized opposition, wouldn’t have cost taxpayers a dime, and would have gone a long way toward improving Morgan Hill’s city center. I cannot understand why anyone would vote against it, let alone 50.17 percent of Morgan Hill voters.

But by far, my biggest disappointment comes from the narrow passage of Proposition 8, which amends the state’s Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

As I predicted, the passage of Prop 8 immediately prompted several lawsuits seeking to overturn it, and there’s good reason to believe that these lawsuits will prevail.

One important reason to be hopeful is contained in the California Supreme Court’s ruling [PDF] in May that legalized same-sex marriage, which stated, “… The constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.” (emphasis mine)

I believe that the California Supreme Court telegraphed in this ruling how it would view initiatives like Prop 8: dimly.

Just as it would be a violation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause to try to amend the California constitution to ban interracial marriage, so, too, it is a violation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause to try to amend the California constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

I’m saddened that a slim majority of California voters were willing to dilute everyone’s rights by voting yes on Prop 8, but hopeful that in the end, equality and justice will prevail in this matter, just as it did in other civil rights struggles involving voting, segregation and interracial marriage. The cause has been dealt a temporary setback, but if we persevere, we will prevail.

“Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.”
~ Poet James Whitcomb Riley



  1. I believe that when the Supremes referred to “the statutory initiative process,” they were referring to initiatives that created “statutes,” not initiatives that actually amended the constitution. I would not call an initiative that amended the constitution a “statutory” initiative.

    It seems to me that the people could amend the constitution to entirely remove the equal protection clause, if they wanted to. What legal barrier can prevent them from doing so?

    Like it or not, the majority still rules. The constitution is the supreme law of the land, but a majority of the people still get to decide what the constitution says.

    And shouldn’t we be glad that constitutions can be amended? Look at how many times we’ve had to amend the U.S. Constitution. These are not perfect documents by any stretch of the imagination.

  2. Majority rule, according to the US State Department, is “is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.” (

    Prop 8 takes away what the Supreme Court said was a basic human right: the right to marry the person of your choosing. In the Supreme Court’s ruling’s phrasing, “These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life — an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.”

    If the majority can take away rights from this minority, they can take away your rights, too. If you can’t support same-sex marriage for Christian reasons — compassion, supporting families, loving your neighbor as yourself — then do it for your own self-interest.

  3. […] I’m an avid Barack Obama supporter, I’ve predicted that I’d sometimes disagree with his decisions. I didn’t expect it to happen before Jan. 20, […]

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