The brilliant Bob Stern, leading expert on California’s initiative process, likes to issue the following challenge to audiences: can you name an initiative that Californians passed that they would overturn if they could?

My answer to that has been: he may be right, and it shows that voters are the problem. Think of it this way: if you described a person who, like the California electorate, thought it had made no mistakes, would you want to be governed by that person?

Now, though, I have a simpler and better answer: Prop 8.

What better example of the anti-democratic nature of California’s uniquely inflexible initiative process is there?

In 2008, voters put the ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution. That was their right. But the trouble is that the voters of 2008 should not get to rule forever. But this is California, where we are forever governed by the ghosts of voters and initiatives past.

So five years on, here’s the situation. Majorities of Californians now support same-sex marriage. A majority of California’s elected representatives support same-sex marriage.

And there’s nothing those majorities can do about same-sex marriage – short of spending millions on court challenges or another initiative.

Speaker John Perez just filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Prop 8 cases, that makes this case very well. Perez points out that he can’t legislate on this matter – that Prop 8 is a strike at republican government.

If you’re still reading this, you may respond: well won’t this get fixed by the courts or by future voters? Probably. But it may take years.

And time matters a lot. Years you are denied a right are years you can’t get back.  Members of gay couples can die, unable to marry. California’s constitution, and initiative process makes us prisoners of the past.