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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Proposition 8 Leads but the fight for Gay Marriage Has Not Died and Will Not Die

Probably the most grueling fight on the ballot in California was for Proposition 8. Proponents and Opponents spent over $65 million on it.

Right now the measure is ahead and it will probably pass. Opponents of Proposition 8 have not conceded defeat. Many people poured onto the streets of Sacramento yesterday evening and elsewhere to protest the passage of the law that overturns the Supreme Court decision that had allowed same-sex couples to wed.

Now opponents have filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to invalidate the proposed constitutional amendment. They charge that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the state constitution's core commitment to equality for everyone.

While opponents point to several million ballots that are uncounted statewide, the likelihood is that this measure will pass given its 400,000-vote advantage and the broad coalition that ended up supporting it.

Obama won California by over 24 percent, thus large groups of Obama supporters also backed Proposition 8.

For instance 59 percent of California Catholics supported Obama and 64% supported Proposition 8.

According to Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll, their exit polling showed that religion trumped party affiliation on these type of social issues. 84% of those who attend church weekly voted yes and 83% of those who never attend religious observances voted no.

Why did this measure pass when it was well behind a few months ago.

I think in part, that the No on 8 campaign was too slow to counter very deadly campaign ads from the yes side. One of the biggest was the one of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. A few weeks ago I suggested that Newsom would cost this election as he cost John Kerry the election in 2004. I stand by that comment. Key states in 2004 utilized the gay marriage issue to get out conservative voters. That proved decisive in Ohio where the margin was narrow and the victory decisive for Bush. It was Newsom in part who put the issue to the forefront and helped galvanize conservative voters across the country. And yes Massachusetts Supreme Court played a role, but then as is true now, Newsom was the face that they used.

Phil Bronstein, a San Francisco Chronicle Columnist agrees.
"Gavin Newsom screwed it up. Voters are the ones who make the decision but no one person handed the Yes on 8 campaign a more persuasive and compelling sound bite than our own mayor. Even if there were other flaws in the anti-8 operation, he was unquestionably the poster child for the pro-8 push, whether you like it or not. And unlike Willie Brown, whose 70s high afro and muttonchop sideburn photo got used as a thinly disguised racial scare tactic in the 80s by some Republican candidates for the State legislature (nothing he could do about it), Mr. Newsom willingly and imperiously handed over the ammunition in yesterday's election."
But it was not Newsom alone. In the last month when the No on 8 side closed the gap again, it was due to a slew of very effective ads including one from Dianne Feinstein and one from Samuel L. Jackson.

The problem was they were too slow to react to very damaging but misleading campaign ads charging that students would be forced to learn about gay marriage.

There is an irrational fear on the part of many regarding this issue.

I was listening to the people interviewed in Roseville and the one thing that was said that settled it for me was the guy with the Yes sign saying that he was afraid his kids would learn about same sex marriage in school and would think it was alright for them to marry someone of their own sex. You know there is a word for that view point and it is "homophobia." They are afraid that their kids are going to be gay.

The truth is it is difficult for kids today not to find out about sexual orientations other than straight relationships. It is impossible to keep kids from learning about homosexuality. Learning about such things does not make someone gay. That fear is very real but it is very irrational.

However, despite the brutality of this fight, I still believe time is on the side of those who support gay rights and the right to marry. I am 35 years old. I believe that for most people my generation, the issue of same sex marriage is not a big deal. We know gay people, we have gay friends, gay family remembers, gay colleagues, acquaintances, etc. We are not threatened by their existence. In twenty years, the majority of the population will have grown up with gay people in the open. And while the very religious may still object, the majority of the population will not.

It is inevitable. Just as we once viewed the issue of civil rights as a paramount issue and some felt threatened by granting blacks the right to vote or sit at their table or in the front of their bus, people now are threatened by the prospect of same sex couples having marriage rights. But just as we now look back at the previous prejudices as antiquated and wrong, we will one day do the same for same sex marriage fears and hatred.

---David M. Greenwald reporting