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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Proposition 8, Same-Sex Marriage Ban Doomed?

When the first Field Poll came out in July showing that 51 percent of the voters polled opposed Proposition 8, it seemed for the first time really that the measure that would nullify a State Supreme Court ruling striking laws that prevented same-sex marriage might be in trouble. Historically at least, ballot measures decrease in popularity as the public learns more about them and as uncertainty grows about the measure.

Working in favor of same-sex marriage ironically enough were the controversial decisions not only to lift the ban on same-sex marriage but to allow marriages to occur. Suddenly California voters dealt with same-sex marriage not only in principle but in fact. Perhaps that has enabled Californians to realize that allowing same-sex partners to wed was not the threat that some had made it out to be.

Regardless of that those initial evaluations, the opposition to Proposition 8 has only grown since then. Last week, the new Field Poll, the bellwether of California polling organizations, found a strong increase in opposition to the ballot measure. In this poll, 55 percent oppose Proposition 8 and only 38 support.

The question now is whether or not the measure is doomed. Neither side of course is willing to concede. Indeed the Yes on Proposition 8 has according to reports this week outraised the No side $15 million to $12 million. However, both sides have ample money for the stretch run and money does not appear likely to be deciding the factor.

Both sides downplayed the significance of the poll.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which supports gay rights said:
“We think there’s 15 to 20 percent that are still undecided on this issue. We do believe that if we can get our message out at least equal to the other side, we will win, but that’s a fund-raising issue.”
Jennifer Kerns a spokeswoman for the "Yes on 8" campaign said:
"That was certainly something we expected to see. Historically, the Field Poll has underestimated support for traditional marriage."
However, the director of the Field Poll, Mark DiCamillo agrees with my assessment.
"Initiatives that are trailing, either at the initial measurement or in subsequent measures, rarely pass. History is working against passage."
Moreover, opinions on issues such as same-sex marriage do not tend to fluctuate dramatically.

Two weeks ago, the Davis City Council unanimously endorsed a resolution opposing the measure in a resolution. The measure brought out a number of citizens on both sides of the issue, however, the No on Proposition 8 side had the majority of the speakers.

As I mentioned a few months ago and again at the onset to this article, I think Proposition 8 is doomed. And I think a key factor to it is that people were able to wed back in June. That action took away part of the wedge issue that opponents of same-sex marriage usually employ. People simply are not going to run in fear of what will happen if same-sex couples are able to wed because they have already wed and most people would never know the difference. The fear of the unknown has been taken away, it has also been humanized. Watching happy same-sex couples, overjoyed in being able to final share their love for each other is a powerful antidote to fear.

I have long suspected that same-sex marriage was an idea whose time was going to arrive. Demographically speaking, the younger generation, people my age and younger, have grown up in an openly gay society. We have gay friends, gay relatives, gay colleagues. Everyone knows at least some gay couples. There is a level of acceptance and a level of comfort that did not exist in prior generations.

That said I would never have guessed that at least in California the time would be now. It seems like just yesterday it was February 14, and I was once again in Freddie Oakley's office watching her giving out certificates to same-sex couples and wishing for the day she could legally marry them. This day seemed so far way on that day. Who knew that only four months she would be doing those ceremonies for real and that in November we would in fact be certifying and formalizing that Supreme Court decision.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting