Wednesday, November 5, 2008

California Votes For Earthquake Insurance: California Proposition 8 Tentatively Passes By 4.8 Points, But Legal Challenges Already Looming Ahead

With 99.1 percent of California precincts having reported, it is safe to say the California's Proposition 8, which amends the state constitution to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman, has passed. The margin of victory was relatively small, though, as 52.4 percent of voters said Yes, while 47.6 percent said No. Pre-election polls had given the Nos a three to four point majority. A controversial ad put out by the anti-Prop 8 Courage Campaign on election day may have backfired against opponents of Prop 8. In addition, an existing California law, California Family Code 297.5, already confers the benefits of marriage upon those gay couples who choose to enter into registered domestic partnerships, so understandably many people were confused about how it could be about "rights", when those "rights" are already provided?

While approved initiatives generally take effect the day after passage, California officials state that this result will not be certified until December 13th. This buys the state time to resolve the sudden ambiguity of the thousands of gay marriages contracted during the interregnum of legality. Some fundamentalist pastors might speculate that California might have bought itself some "earthquake" insurance by passing Prop 8 (LOL!).

Utah media outlets reporting this story include KSL Channel 5 HERE and HERE, the Deseret News, and the Salt Lake Tribune.

A map posted on the Los Angeles Times website shows the geographical breakdown. The strongest support for Prop 8 was registered in the southern part of the Central Valley, where upwards of 75 percent of voters supported it. San Bernadino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties also provided good support. The only area of the state opposing it was the highly metrosexual coastal strip, extending from Humboldt County in the north to Monterey County in central California. In addition, oddballs such as Santa Barbara County and the counties of Alpine and Mono adjoining the Nevada border also opposed it. The strongest opposition was centered around the San Francisco Bay Area, where totals against it topped 75 percent in two counties.

Values voters led the way towards passage of Prop 8. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints walked point and took the greatest amount of flak, even within its own ranks, those of other Christian denominations, separate faiths, and even the unchurched participated took up the cause just as enthusiastically. But the religiously-inclined were more supportive of Prop 8 in general. CNN reported that Californians who attend church weekly supported Prop 8 by an 83 percent to 17 percent margin, while those who attended church occasionally voted 40 percent in favor and 60 percent opposed. Californians who never attend church were 14 percent in favor and 86 percent against.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one other major source of support for Proposition 8 was California's Black and Latino voters, who voted in droves for the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Exit poll data showed seven in 10 Black voters and more than half of Latino voters backed the ballot initiative, while Whites and Asians were split. Although Blacks and Latinos combined make up less than one-third of California's electorate, their opposition to same-sex marriage appeared to tip the balance. Black opposition was particularly pronouned; according to CNN, Blacks supported Prop 8 by a 69-31 percent margin.

There was also an age split. CNN further reported that older people were most supportive of Prop 8. Voters 65 and above favored the amendment 57 percent to 43 percent, voters 30-64 were evenly split, and voters between the ages of 18 and 29 opposed the proposition 66 percent to 34 percent.

The LDS Church reacted favorably to the results; their full statement can be viewed HERE. The Church reasserted its position that the issue wasn't about benefits or "rights", but solely about the definition of marriage. Here's the pertinent part of their statement:

It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage — a union between a man and a woman.

Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church's opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.

However, the losing side is showing its utter contempt for the democratic process, already developing litigation. The Sacramento Bee reports that American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a combined petition with the California Supreme Court to invalidate the proposed constitutional amendment. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the state constitution's core commitment to equality for everyone.

In addition, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also filed an identical legal challenge in the state Supreme Court, joined by Santa Clara County and the Los Angeles city attorneys. San Francisco city officials, who pushed to overturn California's gay marriage laws in the previous court fight, also argue that Proposition 8 violates the equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples.

By comparing the tactics of both sides, one can easily see who favors democracy and who supports dictatorship. While proponents of Prop 8 were willing to trust the people by submitting their initiative to a popular vote, opponents want to bypass the public process and allow unelected judges to make the determination. They favor judicial dictatorship and unelected political aristocracy rather than representative democracy.

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