California Repeal of Proposition 8 (2012)
Marriage and Family
|Not on ballot|
On September 24, 2009, John Henning of "Love, Honor, Cherish" filed a request with the Office of the California Attorney General for an official ballot title on a proposed amendment that he is calling the "Marriage Equality Act". The attorney general cleared the ballot title for circulation on this initiated constitutional amendment on November 13, 2009. The signature filing deadline is April 12, 2010.
The proposed amendment has two sections. One section protects religious freedom. The other section says, "To provide for fairness in the government's issuance of marriage licenses, Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: Sec. 7.5.
Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."
When "Love, Honor, Cherish" filed this proposed initiative, it was the culmination of an intense debate that emerged within the LGBT community after Proposition 8 was approved in November 2008 about the best strategy for repealing it.
In the summer of 2009, the differences in approach largely boiled down to whether to go ahead with a repeal attempt in 2010 or wait until 2012. Several proposed repeal initiatives that had been officially filed in the months after November 2008 languished and ultimately failed because petition drives to put them on the ballot did not materialize.
Meanwhile, Henning's group and others who support a 2010 repeal effort planned their approach throughout late summer. Other LGBT groups strenuously oppose the 2010 repeal effort, making their views known in very clear terms through a variety of communication channels in August and early September.,
Because several of the largest donors in the LGBT community made it known that they opposed and would not financially support a 2010 repeal effort, Henning's group may not be able to muster financial resources sufficient to collect the 694,354 valid signatures they will need by mid-April 2010 to qualify the repeal measure for the ballot. That means that for Henning and his allies to succeed in their 2010 ballot question, they must count on widespread support from the grassroots to carry their petition drive across the finish line.
Uncertainty about best date
Those who want to repeal Proposition 8 through a ballot initiative have been engaged in a tense, months-long dialogue about whether this should be done in 2010 or 2012.
Matt Foreman, director of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund's gay and lesbian program, said, "The situation with these opposing factions is one of the most distressing things I've seen in my 25 years working in the gay movement."
Poll on dates
In favor of 2012
Reasons that have been put forward to support the idea of waiting until 2012 include:
- Uncertainty about whether the $40 million or so that consultants think will be needed can be raised in 2010, an off-year politically.
- A similar doubt about whether it might be more difficult to recruit campaign volunteers in an off-year.
- The Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club of San Francisco is concerned that a 2010 measure "would require a rush that could cause our community to take shortcuts, miss important messages and fail to make critical connections. If we set the vote for 2010, we essentially need to net 1,000 voters per day, a theoretically achievable but extraordinarily ambitious goal."
- David Bohnett, who gave over $1 million to the 2008 campaign to defeat Prop 8, said that he and other "major No on 8 donors" are not clear that 2010 is the right year and that "we will step up to the plate — with resources and talent — when the time is right."
- Marc Solomon of Equality California told the New York Times that he asked "nearly two dozen California political consultants and pollsters" in June and July 2009 what they thought about 2010 versus 2012 and that these people were almost unanimous in believing that it would be best to wait beyond 2010.
- The polls haven't moved since Prop 8 won.
- Hans Johnson, board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said "A slapdash effort based on wishful thinking, rosy scenarios, and passion, is not enough to win on."
Boyce Hinman of the California Communities United Institute wrote in September, "First we should determine how to persuade a majority of voters to support same-sex marriage. Second we should implement that plan. We shouldn't select a date for the vote until we have clear evidence that the plan has worked and a majority of voters will vote in favor of same-sex marriage. 
Members of the Courage Campaign polled over the fall were heavily in favor of the 2010 option. The Courage Campaign spent $200,000 on public opinion research and focus groups to provide guidance on possible ballot language. Ultimately, this led to the organization announcing on November 30 that it is calling for "for more research and time to change hearts and minds before returning to the ballot." Rick Jacobs, leader of the group, said they do not "see a path to victory" for 2010.
Lambda Legal also announced in late November that it is opposed to a 2010 effort. Senior council Jennifer Pizer said a failed effort in 2010 could polarize voters and demoralize supporters of same-sex marriage.
Go for 2010
- "Love, Honor, Cherish" is the leading advocate of a Prop 8 repeal effort in 2010 effort. The group has published a blueprint for what that would look like. John Henning, executive director of the group, says, "We want our rights back. This is not about farm price supports. This is about whether I can be married or not."
- John M. Cleary, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, said that younger activists in his group want to move on this in 2010. Cleary said, "I find the language of some of the organizations really self-defeating. And I think we have a moral obligation to overturn this."
A key organizational meeting was held in San Francisco on August 29, 2009 by those who support a 2010 repeal initiative. The objective of the meeting was to develop a structure for gathering petition signatures and to choose a leadership team.
A plan discussed at the meeting for collecting the required signatures was named "The Davis Plan"; this involves dividing the state into ten regions with leaders in each region tasked with collecting a certain number of signatures.
Groups and individuals present at the August 29 meeting included:
- California Coalition for Marriage Equality
- Courage Campaign, which later rejected a move to qualify for the 2010 ballot.
- John Henning, executive director of "Love Honor Cherish"
- Chaz Lowe of "Yes on Equality".
- Zakiya Khabir, Jordon Krueger, Lester Aponte, Lisa Kove, Kelechi Anyanwu, and Misha Houser were elected to an administrative leadership team, along with Henning and Lowe.
A website, "Repeal Prop 8 in 2010" has been established.
June or November?
Among those who advocate the 2010 ballot, there was discussion about whether it should go on the June or the November 2010 statewide ballot.
In early July, a campaign that had been collecting signatures to qualify a repeal measure for the June 2010 ballot said it had decided that it would be a better strategy to wait and have a repeal measure on the November 2010 ballot. Brendan Ross, a spokesman for "Yes! on Equality" told a reporter that they are "...no longer gathering signatures for the first initiative, but will still use those pages of signatures as contacts for when it's time to continue gathering signatures."
Possible ballot language
- Some LGBT groups believe it is important to provide a religious exemption in any amendment to repeal Proposition 8.
- Explicitly addressing questions about school curriculum is also thought by some to be advisable in light of a widespread belief that television ads run in the 2008 campaign by the "Yes on 8" campaign that stated that children would have to be taught about same-sex marriage in school were effective in swinging votes toward the "Yes on 8" side.
- However, some say that a ballot initiative should not say that same-sex marriage wouldn't be taught in schools. Judy Appel of the Our Family Coalition said that if LGBT ballot initiative supporters put in language saying that gay marriage won't be taught in schools, they are heading down the wrong path because it sets up a conflict between two rights: the right to marry and the right to talk about marriage with children. It's not a good idea, she feels, to advocate for one right but not the other.
A poll commissioned from David Binder of David Binder Research and Amy Simon of Goodwin Simon Victoria Research showed that 64% of those surveyed agreed that issues about gays and lesbians should be discussed at home, not in public schools, compared to 30 percent who disagreed with that statement. The poll also indicated that when language is included in a proposed initiative that says that the measure is "not intended to, and shall not be interpreted to, modify or change the curriculum in any school", the number of those who say they would vote in favor of an amendment to repeal Prop 8 goes up a few points than if that language is not part of the proposed amendment.
Filed and failed
In California, the first step to putting an initiative on the ballot is filing proposed language with the California Secretary of State. As of November 2009, these initiatives related to the repeal of Proposition 8 had been filed but failed because signatures were not turned in:
- 09-0003: Substitutes Domestic Partnership for Marriage in California Law. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. This was filed by Kaelan Housewright and Ali Shams. According to the brief official summary, it would "replace the term "marriage" with the term "domestic partnership" throughout California law, but preserves the rights provided in marriage. Applies equally to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation. Repeals the provision in California's Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Signature deadline: August 6, 2009.
- 09-0002, Amdt. #1S: Reinstates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. This was filed by Charles Lowe of "Yes! on Equality." A brief official summary describes it as, "Repeals the current provision in California's Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Provides that the initiative is not intended, and shall not be interpreted, to modify or change the curriculum in any school. Clarifies that the initiative is not intended, and shall not be interpreted, to mandate or require clergy of any church to perform a service or duty inconsistent with his or her faith." Signature deadline: August 17, 2009.
- 09-0011: Reinstates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Like 09-0002, this was filed by Charles Lowe of "Yes! on Equality." A brief official summary describes it as, "Repeals the current provision in California’s Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Provides that the initiative is not intended, and shall not be interpreted, to modify or change the curriculum in any school. Clarifies that the initiative is not intended, and shall not be interpreted, to mandate or require clergy of any church or religious institution to perform a service or duty inconsistent with his or her faith." Signature deadline: November 19, 2009.
- 09-0042: Marriage Equality. This was filed on September 24, 2009. Those filing it were Geoff Farrow, Jo Hoenninger, Thomas Watson, Ange-Marie Hancock, Jordan Krueger, John Henning, Andrew Klayman, Peter Nguyen, and Edwin Rivera of the group Love, Honor, Cherish. Measure 09-0042 was approved for circulation in mid-November. Its proponents have until April 12, 2010 to collect signatures to qualify it for the November 2010 ballot.
It includes a religious exemption and is worded as follows:
- Section 1:
- "To protect religious freedom, no court shall interpret this measure to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person authorized to perform marriages by any religious denomination, church or other non-profit religious institution to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. The refusal to perform a marriage under this provision shall not be the basis for lawsuit or liability, and shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any religious denomination, church or other religious institution."
- Section 2:
- "To provide for fairness in the government's issuance of marriage licenses, Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution is hereby amended to read as follows: Sec. 7.5.
Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."
Different campaign than 2008
As the marriage equality community debates when it should push to have an initiative on the ballot, the community of those who want to repeal Prop 8 are also discussing ways they think a campaign should be different from the campaign run in 2008 to try to defeat Prop 8.
Ideas that have been suggested as to how a new campaign should differ include:
- More outreach to African Americans and Latinos.
- Put most emphasis on sharing personal stories.
- Gay and Lesbian Times, "Longtime activist calls for more ‘democratic’ marriage-equality movement", July 2, 2009
- Bay Area Reporter, "Groups begin talk of ballot wording", June 11, 2009
- Wall Street Journal, "Gay-Marriage Bid is Delayed", August 13, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "New straw poll of gay marriage leaders: Overturn Prop 8 in 2010", July 26, 2009
- Wall Street Journal, "Gay-Marriage Backers Split on 2010 Ballot Effort", December 15, 2009
- Catholic News Agency, "California voters opposed to revisiting Prop. 8 in 2010 election, poll says", November 15, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Same-sex marriage backers weigh ballot date", July 26, 2009
- New York Times, "Backers of Gay Marriage Rethink California Push", July 26, 2009
- Sacramento Bee, "Separate same-sex marriage campaigns: Recipe for failure", September 8, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "After major same sex marriage research, liberal CA org says: "We do not see a path to victory.", November 30, 2009
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Same sex marriage could still be on ballot in 2010 - big meeting in SF this weekend"
- Los Angeles Times, "One question divides same-sex marriage proponents: When?", December 1, 2009
- Statement of Love, Honor, Cherish on how to execute a 2010 repeal effort
- Bay Area Reporter Online, "Coalition developing structure for 2010 Prop 8 repeal effort", September 23, 2009
- Southern Voice, "Another ballot measure in California?", March 6, 2009
- On Top Magazine, "Calif. Campaign to Restore Gay Marriage Alters Course", July 2009
- Repeal Prop 8 Leadership Summit: The Expert Point of View, July 28, 2009
- Full text of Proposed Initiative 09-0003
- Full text of Proposition Initiative 09-0002, Amendment #1S
- Full text of Proposed Initiative 09-0011
- 'ABC-TV, "Same-sex marriage advocates start petition drive"
- In re: Marriage Equality, Version 09-0042
- Sacramento Bee, "Proponents of repealing Prop. 8 turn to Web to qualify measure", November 16, 2009
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