Proposition 8: Not Just for Californians

In 2005, Connecticut became the second state in the United States (after Vermont, in 2000) to adopt civil unions, and the first to do so without judicial intervention.

On October 10, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that failing to give same-sex couples the full rights, responsibilities, and name of marriage was against the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution. It ordered same-sex marriage legalized, making Connecticut the third state, after Massachusetts (2004) and California (2008) to do so.

Is the recognition of gays and lesbians as functioning, tax-paying, family-nurturing folk finally taking root?

It is well-known that conservative forces in California have spawned Proposition 8. Baldly titled “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples To Marry,” it is an initiative measure on the upcoming California General Election ballot. If passed, the proposition would change the California Constitution, eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry there, while adding a new section declaring, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This after the California Supreme Court unequivocally held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry under the state constitution.

The Orange County Register’s online Total Buzz cites the University of Southern California’s Initiative and Referendum Institute report on Proposition 8, which, in part, analyzes why so much money, effort, and time has been expended on it:

“The huge amount of money being channeled to fight this proposition, despite its minimal economic impact, reflects the view of both sides that California is a critical firewall in the battle over gay marriage. Rejection of Proposition 8, in effect a popular affirmation of the right to gay marriage, would provide tremendous momentum to the gay rights side, especially since it comes in a huge state that is seen by many as a trendsetter.”

The study, which states that campaign finance reports show out-of-state contributions to both the Yes and No campaigns for Proposition 8 are high, concludes, “Spending on Proposition 8, currently at $55 million, is likely to reach a record level for a social issue.”

This massive out-of-state participation further indicates that GLBTs outside of California can do more than sit on the sidelines. Regardless of whether getting married per se is of personal interest, the right to do so, and to obtain the concomitant state and federal rights due the legally married, should be of concern to all, GLBT or not.

What will happen to the thousands of same-sex couples married in California between June 17 and November 4, should Proposition 8 pass?

One face: Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, who married his partner of 16 years, Christopher Green, in September. They are parents of 2-year-old twins, Julie and Beckham.

One hopes that by November 4, enough Californians will have put names and faces to their gay and lesbian friends, family, and coworkers to vote no to taking away their fellow citizens’ right to the pursuit of happiness.

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