In a stinging rebuke to his fellow California Democrats, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed their attempted codification of Title IX regulations into state law. Brown’s impressive statement withholding his signature should be a wake-up call to the way that “progressive” measures, however well-intentioned, have encouraged an approach deeply at odds with America’s foundational principles of justice.
The bill, Senate Bill 169, was passed in an effort to counteract the Trump White House’s rollback of federal rules, promulgated during the Obama administration, applying to investigations into sexual assault. As usual in California politics, the expectation was that decisive support in Sacramento would snowball across the country. Activists would be gratified, California’s influence over national and Democratic politics would grow and resistance to President Trump would strengthen.
In Gov. Brown’s balance, none of those outcomes outweighed the basic due process concerns at the heart of all questions of criminal justice. Brown explained that, in 2014, he signed California’s landmark “Yes Means Yes” legislation to help draw some stable, predictable legal boundaries in what had become the fraught and murky terrain of sexual activity on campus. Now, however, Brown noted, legal scholars have raised pressing questions about the way campus justice has “unintentionally resulted” in stripping accused students of basic rights.
Brown did not observe that, in some increasingly influential circles, it is considered essential to justice that accusations of sexual assault are taken to be true, inverting the fundamental rule of civil liberty that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. According to the cutting edge of academic social justice theory, that change is required to undo the structural sexism that has hardwired “rape culture” into American life and fueled “toxic masculinity.”
With sexual assault and impropriety in Hollywood currently at the…