Same-sex marriage backers vow to fight on

California supporters of same-sex marriage took to the streets and to the courts following the passage on Nov. 4 of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The initiative, placed on the ballot after the California Supreme Court acted in May to void a similar proposition passed in 2000, led by 52.5 to 47.5 percent.

News of the vote brought thousands of supporters of same-sex marriage onto the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles and other communities Nov. 5. In San Francisco, participants held a candlelight vigil outside City Hall, while Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to continue the fight and said he expects Prop. 8 will be overturned in court. In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched through the streets of West Hollywood.

In legal challenges filed with the state Supreme Court Nov. 5, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights charged that using the initiative process to take away a right from one group, gays and lesbians, violated the constitution’s commitment to equality for everyone. The challengers also said the measure was wrong in trying to bar the courts from protecting equal rights of minorities.

“We remain committed to ensuring full equality under the law, just as the thousands of same-sex couples who joyously married in California are committed to each other,” the No on Prop. 8 Campaign said in a statement. “So, disappointed as we are, we know that there is still hope and there is still love and, yes, there is still work to do. With our continued effort and by building on the support generated in this campaign, we will prevail. There will be equality. For us all.”

Meanwhile, the status of some 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California following the state Supreme Court’s ruling in May was uncertain. State Attorney General Jerry Brown joined the challengers in saying the unions will remain valid, but other observers predicted they could face legal challenges.

Several other states passed related measures. Arizona’s Prop. 102, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, passed 56.5 to 43.5 percent. In Florida, a similar measure, Prop. 2, passed with 62.1 percent of the vote. In Arkansas, voters approved Initiative Act 1 by 57 percent, barring unmarried couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, from becoming adoptive or foster parents.

However, ballot measures dealing with another set of “social issues” fared quite differently. In California, Prop. 4, which would have required parental notification when a minor sought an abortion, lost with over 52 percent voting no. It was the third time in three years that such an initiative was on the ballot. All three efforts were heavily funded by James Holman, publisher of the San Diego Reader weekly newspaper.

By over 55 percent, South Dakota voters rejected Initiated Measure 11, to ban abortion except in instances of rape, incest or serious threat to the mother’s health, while in Colorado, voters overwhelmingly defeated Amendment 48 to define human life as starting at conception, by a whopping 73 percent.

Colorado voters also trounced a “right to work” measure, with 55 percent voting no. Amendment 47 would have prevented unions and employers from negotiating “union shop” contracts.

With 50.6 percent voting no, Colorado voters also narrowly defeated Amendment 46, an anti-affirmative action measure to bar both “discrimination” and “preferential treatment” in public employment, education or contracting based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. It was the first to fail after achieving ballot status, among a series of state anti-affirmative action measures sparked by California businessman and former UC regent Ward Connerly over the last 12 years. This year Connerly and his supporters proposed five such measures; they failed to gain ballot status in Arizona, Missouri and Oklahoma. Nebraska’s anti-affirmative action initiative passed, 58 to 42 percent.

In a triumph for a coalition of immigrant rights activists, educators and parents, Oregon’s Measure 58, which would have barred teaching non-English-speaking public school students in their own language for more than one or two years was resoundingly defeated, with 63 percent voting no. It was introduced by anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore, whose Measure 60 to base teachers’ pay on merit was also beaten back, with 59 percent voting no.

In Massachusetts, Question 1, an attempt to cut in half and then do away with the state income tax was defeated by over 2 to 1. Opponents said passage would have meant a nearly 40 percent cut in the state budget, forcing poorer communities to hike property taxes to the maximum.

mbechtel @pww.org