Letters to the Editor: UC I Vote…UC I Am Disappointed

Erwin Chemerinsky could not help himself. The dean of UC Irvine’s new law school was the featured speaker at the UC I Vote event at the Crystal Cove Auditorium held before the third presidential debate. During his speech, he made double-sure to tell everyone that he would try very hard to be as objective, nonpartisan and welcoming to ideas from both sides of the political aisle as he is when he lectures in front of a class. He was mostly fair during his speech, but one could certainly question the objectivity of his suggestion that John McCain’s stated plan was less concerned with deficit reduction than Barack Obama’s, since neither candidate has been clear about which programs they would cut, and Obama in particular has proposed a cornucopia of new spending (universal health care being chief among them).
After the prepared statement, he took questions. The first came from the moderator. The questioner mentioned that an advertisement in favor of Proposition 8 (which amends the California constitution to define marriage as something between a man and a woman) claims that the California Supreme Court overturned the will of the people by overruling Proposition 22, which was a measure that had previously sought to define marriage as strictly heterosexual.
Proposition 22 was passed by a 61 percent majority in the year 2000. The questioner then asked for Chemerinsky’s reaction to the notion that the Supreme Court overturned the will of the people. Chemerinsky prefaced his response by once again reiterating that he was trying hard to be nonpartisan, and then proceeded to offer a partisan analysis.
Rather than addressing the “will of the people” issue first, Chemerinsky criticized the pro-Proposition 8 ad as something that reasonable people on both sides of the issue should recognize as “untruthful.” In particular, he labeled the claim made in the ad about how schools could be forced to teach gay marriage as “untruthful” and said that nothing in the California Supreme Court ruling suggests anything of the sort.
However, the possibility that schools may be compelled to teach gay marriage is not at all remote. In fact, Chemerinsky himself referred to the court ruling as one that affirms “marriage equality” (known to most who try to be nonpartisan as “gay marriage”) and one can hardly claim that marriage equality in the context of gay couples can be achieved if taxpayer funded schools treat gay unions differently from straight unions (as citizens in Massachusetts are discovering). In fairness to Dr. Chemerinsky, he did make an effort to be nonpartisan and he correctly observes that the likelihood of churches losing their tax-exempt status is remote.
Unfortunately, the audience was not as magnanimous as Dr. Chemerinsky; during the broadcast of the presidential debate, the audience displayed nothing but scorn and vitriolic laughter for McCain while they raucously cheered and applauded Obama to the extent that it became difficult even to hear the debate at times.
Are these the kind of voters that UCI wants to encourage?

Mitchell Khong
Graduate Student
Department of Mathematics