Prop 8 Decision Stirs National Outrage

27 05 2009

Prop 8 Protest 036

So here we are, half way through 2009. We have a newly elected president, a newly elected/reelected congress, and as we speak there is a new Supreme Court Judge frying under our collective political microscope. What’s that you say? What ever happened to that thing last year with gay marriage in California? First they could get married, then there was something during the election about rejecting marriage licenses of gay couples who already got married… what ever happened with that? 

Well, once upon a time there was a referendum. In order to qualify to get onto the ballot in the first place, Proposition 8 needed 694,354 valid petition signatures, equal to 8% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 General Election. The initiative proponents submitted 1,120,801 signatures (160% of what was required). On June 2, 2008 the initiative qualified for the November 4, 2008 election ballot through the random sample signature check (’cause, you  know, nothing can go wrong there).

Please note that the initiative needed 8% of the number of people who voted in the most recent election for governor. So, for those of you in California who choose not to vote, if you had voted in the 2006 election for Governor then the authors of this initiative would have needed many more signatures. This is partially your fault – you’re making it easy for them.

Anyway,originally they called it the “California Marriage Protection Act”, but some opponents claimed that was a misleading title, so they settled on “Proposition 8”. So, with some paperwork and a $200 submission fee, the initiative was on its way.

Now it’s May 2009 – the election has come and gone, with Obama on top along with Prop 8. Opponents and supporters of Prop 8 have been playing tug of war with every legislative body they’ve been able to wrap their arms around. Lawsuits abound. What would be the fate of those 18,000 gay marriages that have taken place in California already? Finally May 26 rolls around, the day the California Supreme Court announces its ruling on whether or not Proposition 8 is valid. That morning the justices announce that Prop 8 is indeed valid as voted. 

In a written statement, Alan Van Capelle, the Pride Agenda’s executive director, said, “Today’s ruling from the California Supreme Court missed an opportunity to do what courts are supposed to do and that is to make sure that all people are treated equally under the law.” He noted, however, that dozens of New York gay and lesbian couples who traveled to California to marry last year will continue to have valid marriages that are recognized by New York State, as are all legal out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

Rallies and celebrations across the U.S. that were planned in anticipation of an overturning of Prop 8 instead turn into outraged protests. In San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Providence and other cities, thousands of gay marriage supporters poured onto the streets, homemade signs in hand.

Another protest organizer, Ashley Simmons, said, “We chose to have a nonviolent civil disobedience because civil rights struggles come from the bottom up.” Fowler added. “There is a place for legislative action, but it’s more than appropriate to use civil disobedience to stand up for our rights when the system fails us.”

Some gay marriage supporters look at this decision as a good thing, saying that gay marriage “will stand on sounder footing when it is popularly enacted rather than judicially imposed”. Perhaps. Thankfully the protests and anti-Prop 8 rallies yesterday were generally peaceful demonstrations. If gay marriage supporters get desperate enough, if the elected officials that they helped get into office turn a deaf ear to their plight, that may not always be the case.