Gains and setbacks on other ballot issues

OAKLAND, Calif. — Statewide protests against Proposition 8, a ballot measure approved by voters last week banning same-sex marriage in California, continued into their second week here, and marriage equality activists vowed to fight it out in court.

Vote tallies so far indicate the initiative was approved by a 500,000 vote margin. Opponents of marriage equality placed the measure on the ballot in response to a California Supreme Court decision in May overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

News of the vote brought thousands of protesters onto the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and other communities over the following days. 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 violated the Constitution’s commitment to equality for everyone.

“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 remained uncertain. State Attorney General Jerry Brown said the marriages will remain valid, but others predicted they could be nullified.

Several other states approved related measures on Nov. 4. Arizona’s Prop. 102, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, passed 56 percent to 43 percent. In Florida, a similar measure, Prop. 2, passed with 62 percent of the vote. In Arkansas, voters approved Initiative Act 1, which bars unmarried couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, from becoming adoptive or foster parents.

Donna Cartwright, spokesperson for Pride at Work, the voice of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the labor movement, commented, “The anti-LGBT votes show that although progressive forces are moving forward again around the country, mean-spirited right-wing forces remain active and can still inflict damage on ordinary working people, LGBT or straight.”

“Much education remains to be done, and we will have to work hard to do it,” she added.

In an e-mail message to supporters, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese expressed hope despite the votes on these measures. Several important Republican congressional figures with anti-gay agendas lost their seats during the election, including Rep. Marilyn Musgrove (R-Colo.), who led the Republican effort to insert a ban on marriage equality in the U.S. Constitution, Solmonese reported.

Other LGBT civil rights activists also expressed disappointment over the outcome on these ballot initiatives, but said they are heartened by future possibilities. Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said, “A new administration brings a promise for a sea change in the tenor of the national dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.”

Pride at Work’s Donna Cartwright said, “In the coming few years, we look forward to the enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act, a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the removal of barriers to full access for LGBT people to government service and immigration, and continued progress on marriage equality.”

Ballot measures dealing with another set of “social issues” fared quite differently. Voters in California, South Dakota and Colorado rejected constraints on women’s right to make their own reproductive decisions.

Colorado voters also rejected ballot measures that would have banned affirmative action and imposed “right-to-work” laws. But in Nebraska an anti-affirmative-action initiative passed, 58 percent to 42 percent.

Voters in Oregon rejected an “English-only” measure.

In Massachusetts, a referendum to abolish the state’s income tax went down in defeat.

In Michigan, voters approved the use of medical marijuana and stem cell research.


Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986 and currently participates as a volunteer. Marilyn Bechtel escribe desde el Área de la Bahía de San Francisco. Se unió al personal de PW en 1986 y actualmente participa como voluntaria.