Why Homosexual Marriage Was Defeated in California

homosexual-marriage.jpgNov. 4 may have been a joyous day for liberals, but it wasn’t a great day for lesbians and gays. Three big states — Arizona, California and Florida — voted to change their constitutions to define marriage as a heterosexuals-only institution.


The losses cut deep on the gay side. Arizona had rejected just such a constitutional amendment only two years ago. It had been the first and only state to have rebuffed a constitutional ban on marriage equality. In Florida, where the law requires constitutional amendments to win by 60%, a marriage amendment passed with disturbing ease, 62.1% to 37.9%.

And then there was California. Gay strategists working for marriage equality in this election cycle had focused most of their attention on that state. Losing there dims hopes that shimmered brightly just a few weeks ago — hopes that in an Obama America, straight people would be willing to let gay people have the basic right to equality in their personal relationships. It appears not.
The California vote was close but not razor-thin: as of 10 a.m. P.T., with 96.4% of precincts reporting, gays had lost 52.2% to 47.8%. Obama did not suffer the much-discussed “Bradley effect” this year, but it appears that gay people were afflicted by some version of it. As of late October, a Field Poll found that the pro-gay side was winning 49% to 44%, with 7% undecided. But gays could not quite make it to 49% on Election Day, meaning a few people may have been unwilling to tell pollsters that they intended to vote against equal marriage rights.
Gays are used to losing these constitutional amendment battles — as I said, Arizona was the only exception — but gay activists cannot claim they didn’t have the money to wage the California fight. According to an analysis of the most recent reports from the California secretary of state, the pro-equality side raised an astonishing $43.6 million, compared with just $29.8 million for those who succeeded in keeping gays from marrying. The money the gay side raised is surprising for two reasons: first, the cash-Hoover known as the Obama campaign was sucking down millions of dollars a day from the nation’s liberals. Many gays expected it to be difficult to raise money to fight Proposition 8 and its plan to outlaw same-sex marriage from Democrats eager to give to Obama and to the outside 527 groups supporting him. As recently as August, one of the nation’s top gay political givers told me that he expected the gay side to raise no more than $25 million.
But a series of high-profile Hollywood donations, as well as a frantic, nationwide push for gays to get out their checkbooks, turned out to be quite successful in the short term. East Coast gays had been lulled into inaction by the Oct. 10 Connecticut Supreme Court decision granting gay couples the right to marry — a decision that hadn’t required gays to write a single check. But gay people in Los Angeles and San Francisco cajoled and shamed their Eastern friends into opening their wallets. Thousands of California gay couples got married in the past few weeks, and I didn’t see a single invitation to a gay ceremony that didn’t include a plea to donate to the pro-equality campaign in lieu of buying wedding gifts.
Still, even though gays were fighting to preserve a basic right, it was the anti-equality side in California that seemed to have the most fervor. A symbolic low point for the gay side came on Oct. 13, when the Sacramento Bee ran a remarkable story about Rick and Pam Patterson, a Mormon couple of modest means — he drives a 10-year-old Honda Civic, she raises their five boys — who had withdrawn $50,000 from their savings account and given it to the pro-8 campaign. “It was a decision we made very prayerfully,” Pam Patterson, 48, told the Bee’s Jennifer Garza. “Was it an easy decision? No. But it was a clear decision, one that had so much potential to benefit our children and their children.”
You could argue that marriage equality has little to do with children, but Patterson seemed to speak to Californians’ inchoate phobias about gays and kids. On the Friday before the Bee story appeared, a group of San Francisco first-graders was taken to city hall to see their lesbian teacher marry her partner. Apparently the field trip was a parent’s idea — not the teacher’s — but the optics of the event were terrible for the gay side. It seemed like so much indoctrination.
That news came around the same time the pro-amendment forces were running a devastating ad showing a self-satisfied San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom shouting wild-eyed at a rally that same-sex marriage was inevitable “whether you like it or not.” The announcer then said darkly, “It’s no longer about tolerance. Acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory.” Many fence sitters were turned off by Newsom’s arrogance; blogger Andrew Sullivan attributed mid-October polls against the gay side to the “Newsom effect.”
Gays came back in some polls, but they couldn’t pull out a win. Part of the reason is that Obama inspired unprecedented numbers of African Americans to vote. Polls show that black voters are more likely to attend church than whites and less likely to be comfortable with equality for gay people. According to CNN, African Americans voted against marriage equality by a wide margin, 69% to 31%. High turnout of African Americans in Florida probably help explain that state’s lopsided vote to ban same-sex weddings.
Gays did win some victories yesterday. A new openly gay member of Congress, Jared Polis of Colorado, will go to the House in January. And thanks in part to the Cabinet, the group of √©lite gay political donors I wrote about recently, Democrats took the New York senate. The entire New York legislature is now in Democratic hands, and New York’s governor, David Paterson, is one of the nation’s most eloquent pro-marriage-equality representatives. He is also, by the way, African American. Perhaps he can help bridge the gap between gays and blacks that widened on Nov. 4.
Source: TIME
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