California’s Proposition 8

Earlier today I wrote about just what is on an American ballot, and explained very briefly about California’s 12 State Propositions and the 22 Local Propositions for San Francisco.

Now here’s a bit more information about Proposition 8, which “Eliminates rights of same-sex couples to marry”. To underline that a bit more – yes, gay couples can currently get married in California – and properly married, not just a domestic partnership.

I’ve been following the debate about this for months, largely thanks to gay New York blogger Joe.My.God.

Same sex marriage in California is incredibly complicated, and has gone through a number of changes of legislative and judicial origin. These include

  • 1850 California marriage statues define marriage without using gender specific terms
  • 1999 California State Assembly creates domestic partnership legislation for same sex couples
  • 2000 Proposition 22 defines marriage as between a man and woman – passed by 61% of the population
  • 2003 Domestic partnership legislation amended
  • 2004 Gay m Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, decides to authorise marriage licences to same sex couples. 3,995 couples marry. These marriages are annulled by the California Supreme Court. San Francisco begins legal challenge.
  • 2005 California state leglisture approves Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act which recognizes same-sex marriage in California. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoes it twice, in 2005 and 2007
  • 2008 California Supreme Court rules 4-3 that Prop 22 violates California’s equal protection clause, and because of this, grants same sex couples the right to marry.

Whilst all those judicial and legislative processes were happening, conservative campaigns were also trying to amend the constitution through voter initiatives.

Once the courts had ruled that gay Californians could marry, their latest proposition was renamed to what it is now: “Eliminates rights of same sex couples to marry.”

The upshot is that today, 11% of the US public is voting on whether to continue to allow gay marriage in California. Confusingly, the wording has meant that if you’re in favour of gay marriage, you vote no, if you want to make marriage between a man and a woman only, you vote yes.

And the debate has been hotly contested. All indications are that it is an incredibly closely fought campaign. Millions of dollars have been spent on campaigning, with around $30m being spent by each side of the argument.

The money has mostly been on TV ad spend and a huge stakeboard campaign, with signs from both campaigns regularly being defaced and stolen. As you might expect from the home of the movie industry, the TV ads have featured a plethora of stars in well produced ads.

Dozens of different groups have coalesced around the Yes and No campaigns, with Yes bringing together many different religious groups including Orthodox Jews, Catholics and Mormons, and No comprising a huge number of movie stars, the ten largest Californian newspapers, Google, Apple, and a large number of progressive faiths. Campaigns in either direction culminated this weekend with a massive Christian rally in a San Diego football stadium for the Yes campaign, and a 10,000 strong impromptu street rally for the Noes.

After all the campaigning, the latest polls demonstrate the issue is too close to call. A Field Poll from last week gave 49% against, 44% for… but also suggested that 22% of those eligible had already voted, and their votes split 50% yes, 44% no. Gay rights campaigners across America will be watching California closely today because the large state is very influential in the mores of the rest of the country.

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This entry was posted in LDVUSA.


  • Bibliophylax 4th Nov '08 - 3:25pm

    A couple of corrections over “Gay mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsome” – he’s not gay and it’s spelled Newsom. (He is mayor of San Francisco!)

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