Along with Assemblyman Kenneth Cory, State Senator George Moscone authored what would become known as the Privacy Initiative. In November 1972, the Privacy Initiative was submitted to California voters as Proposition 11. It passed overwhelmingly.
Proposition 11 is remarkable in its simplicity. Aside from changing the sexist reference to "men" to "people," it added a single word to Article I, Section I of the California Constitution: privacy. Kenneth Cory and George Moscone's proposed amendment was as follows:
In their argument in support of Proposition 11, which appeared in the 1972 Ballot Pamphlet, Assemblyman Cory and Senator Moscone said:
SECTION 1. All
men people are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and pursuing and obtaining safety, and happiness, and privacy.
The right of privacy is the right to be left alone. It is a fundamental and compelling interest. It protects our homes, our families, our thoughts, our emotions, our expressions, our personalities, our freedom to associate with the people we choose. (emphasis mine).
The California Supreme Court has a long history of relying on Cory and Moscone's argument from the Ballot Pamphlet. On at least two occasions, the Supreme Court has looked to this argument to help define the scope of California's constitutional right to privacy. In the 1975 case of White v. Davis, the Supreme Court held that Cory and Moscone's argument represents, in essence, a "legislative history" that can assist the Court in interpreting the scope of the constitutional amendment. Two decades later, in the 1994 case of Hill v. N.C.A.A., the Supreme Court held:
The Privacy Initiative is to be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with the probable intent of the body enacting it: the voters of the State of California. When, as here, the language of an initiative measure does not point to a definitive resolution of a question of interpretation, " 'it is appropriate to consider indicia of the voters' intent other than the language of the provision itself.' . . . Such indicia include the analysis and arguments contained in the official ballot pamphlet."
George Moscone is widely recognized as a martyr of the LGBT rights movement because he was assassinated along with Harvey Milk. He is also remembered as helping to push through AB 489 which, in 1975, decriminalized consensual sex between same-sex couples in California. The connection between Moscone's work on the Privacy Initiative and the California Supreme Court's marriage decision is not discussed as often as it perhaps should be. As the marriage case shows, George Moscone's work in the California Legislature is a gift that keeps giving.
I hope that when the lists are made of all the leaders who deserve credit for marriage equality, people will not forget that there was a good looking, straight mayor from San Francisco who helped lay the foundation upon which that right was built.