One Proposal for Going Forward Towards Marriage Equality in California
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
November 6th, 2008
The voters of California have spoken twice about whether gay citizens are to be considered full citizens of the State, regarding marriage. In 2000, the voters declared with a majority of 61.4% that the state would only recognize marriages between opposite sex couples. And just this week they declared by 52% that the decision of the Supreme Court be overturned to exclude gay couples from marriage recognition.
But the voice of the people need not be silent at this point, never to change their view. And polls show that time is working in favor of marriage equality. Both a growing comfort with gay couples and a sharply different attitude between youth and seniors suggests that without unanticipated circumstances it is inevitable that soon a majority of California voters will believe in marriage equality.
So I propose that we, as a community, consider the following strategy:
We place a constitutional amendment on the ballot of every statewide election until Proposition 8 is overturned. Such an amendment would be written to do nothing other than reverse the language that was inserted on Tuesday night.
An amendment to the state constitution can be placed on the ballot by means of valid signatures totaling 8% of the previous gubernatorial votes. This means that as few as 694,324 valid signatures need to be collected. A serious effort combining No on Prop 8 and HRC lists along with pride parades and festivals and Universal Unitarian, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, and some United Methodist congregations should make this a relative inexpensive project. Even if signature gatherers are required, the cost should be less than a million dollars in total.
I propose that beyond the cost and effort to collect and submit signatures that we do nothing towards passing the amendment. Nor should we go in with any expectation of success. Our community cannot well afford either the financial or emotional cost of a battle like the one we have just gone through.
But we should make it clear to the voters that we can and will continue to place this issue before them until they side with equality.
There are a few possible negative results of such a plan.
If we spend nothing to pass such an amendment, it may fail by a larger than 52% to 48% margin. This will embolden those who seek to oppress us to claim that California is moving in their direction.
This might even cause some of our allies to become disheartened. We must make it clear that we know it will take time for Californians to come to our aid but that we will be unrelenting.
Also, it may give some voters the impression that they’ve “already answered this”. Why are we back when they said “No” once, twice, three times, etc.? That is an irritation that we will just have to withstand.
But this approach also has some positive sides.
For what we spent on Proposition 8, we could fund 35 amendments. And the cost could be spread over several years allowing us to recover financially and emotionally without giving up a constant pressure.
Repeatedly having to choose discrimination is emotionally distressing to those persons who like to think of themselves as decent and loving. You can always tell yourself, “gosh, how did I vote?” on one or two amendments and “remember” that you just must have sided with decency and love for your neighbor. But after the third time, it’s pretty hard to lie to yourself.
And if we spend no money to front this, the enemies of freedom will have to expend increasingly large amounts to fight against us which keeps that money from doing evil elsewhere.
And finally, if we do decide that the time is right to make another large stand and that we could win, we already have the apparatus in place to raise funds, run ads, and make our claim on the promises of equality that will still stand in the Constitution ready to be freed from the shackles of bigotry, religious intolerance, and heterosexual privilege.