Come Election Day, Californians will have the option to vote for an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
A vote in support of Proposition 8 would constitutionally redefine marriage and effectively prevent same-sex couples from marrying. The proposition’s inclusion on the ballot comes after the California Supreme Court ruled in May of this year that a voter-approved ban on gay marriage, passed in 2000, was unconstitutional. If passed, Prop 8 would circumvent the court’s decision by amending the language found in the constitution. If the proposition fails to garner the simple majority of votes needed to pass, same-sex marriages will remain legal.
The proposition has fueled an at-times contentious debate. The Feminist Majority Foundation, a political action group dedicated to equality for both women and those who suffer from discrimination, is in staunch opposition to the proposition.
“We stand for social, political and economic equality for all, and given that umbrella, it’s basically a no-brainer that we are asking people to vote no on Prop 8,” Olivia Ortiz, a national campus programs organizer for FMF, said. “I can’t emphasize enough that [this vote] is about equality. [Voting yes] takes away rights and amends the California constitution – this is something we want voters to think about before they cast their vote.”
Prop 8 advocate Sonja Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman for Protect Marriage, said that the proposition is not about individual rights – which are protected under the Domestic Partnership Act and Civil Unions Statute, Brown said – but is instead about ensuring the protection of children.
“The gay community wants no distinction between gay marriages and traditional marriage but the truth is that there is a difference,” Brown said. “We know kids long to have a mother and a father and we have a job as a society to champion the rights of kids.”
Proposition 8 is not the first ballot measure aimed at defining marriage between and a man and a women. In 2000, voters in California passed a law that banned same sex marriages in a dramatic fashion, passing the bill with 61.4 percent of the vote. It was this law, known as Prop 22, that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional by a vote of four to three.
The Supreme Court’s decision was hailed as a huge victory for gay rights, and on June 17 – a month after the court’s decision – the state of California issued its first same sex marriage license. Proposition 8 seeks to put an end to such unions.
“It’s not a homosexual thing or a heterosexual thing,” Samuel Santos, the director for the UCSB Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said. “I just think everyone should have equal rights. No one group should be excluded from having rights that every other group is allowed to have. I think it’s wrong to eliminate those rights for Californians.”
Brown, however, noted that the California voters already expressed their desire for traditional marriages.
“We already had a landslide election,” Brown said, “and the voters said they wanted traditional marriage written into the law, and the courts should respect the voters. Only the people are going to make the laws in California and the people’s voice is going to be heard on Nov. 4.”
Ortiz, on the other hand, said she is worried about the severity of the action, noting that an amendment to the constitution would be an end to the discussion.
“Right now Prop 8 [is] seeking to amend the constitution,” she said, “and if [it] were to pass and our rights taken away, it would be nearly impossible to change it, because we don’t have a two-thirds pro-equal rights majority in the state legislature.”
A two-thirds majority of the state legislature is needed to overturn a popular referendum measure.
According to recent a recent poll by SF’s CBS Five, “Yes on Prop 8” has a five-point lead among voters, 47 percent to 42 percent. Ten percent of voters remain undecided.
This recent polling shows a marked turnaround from previous polling data. According to Brown, prior to this latest polling information, “No on Prop 8” had the five-point lead, making for a turnaround of 10 percentage points.
“They are gasping for air and are out of money,” Brown said. “And our campaign is really surging – there is so much support for it and all eyes in the country are on this race.”
After May’s Supreme Court ruling, California became only the second state in the union to legalize gay marriage.
– Helen Tracey Contributed to this article