November 5, 2008
Marriage Won in Three States
by Mike McManus
In 1956 when I was a teenager I
witnessed one of the first Civil Rights battles, the Montgomery Bus
Boycott led by then unknown Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After Rosa Parks
refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, King persuaded Negroes
to stop riding the buses. For a year they walked to work. The case went
to the Supreme Court which ruled blacks could sit anywhere they wished.
It is hard to
imagine such racial oppression, or to appreciate the immense effort by
blacks for the smallest gains toward America’s ideal that “All men are
understand African-Americans jubilantly celebrating the election of
Barack Obama, the first black man to be President. They had every
reason to exclaim, “Its just like a new world,” said Leroy Johnson, 80,
a year behind Dr. King at Morehouse College.
there was also reason for celebrating by religious conservatives who
opposed Obama’s election. In three states, voters said no to homosexual
marriage. Most notably, Californians voted 52 to 48 percent to insert
an amendment into the state constitution, stating, “Only a marriage
between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
marriage amendments were added to the constitutions of Florida and
Arizona, making them the 29th and 30th states to
protect marriage. In Florida, a super-majority was required, a 60
percent vote, yet it won by 62 to 38 percent. The Arizona amendment
passed by 56 to 44
battle for passage in California was titanic. After activists gathered
one million names on a petition for a vote on what became Proposition 8,
the California Supreme Court ruled by 4-3 that an earlier law, with the
same language, was unconstitutional though it was passed by a referendum
supported by 61 percent of 7.5 million voting in 2000.
marriage was legal and 11,000 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot.
Jerry Brown allowed Prop 8 to be put on the ballot, but he biased the
wording of the measure by saying it “eliminated the right of same-sex
couples to marry.”
A poll revealed that
Californians opposed Prop 8 by 54 to 40 percent. Thousands of churches
got involved in the fight, and ultimately raised millions to make a
case for Prop 8. One of their TV ads stated that “Children in public
schools will have to be taught that same-sex marriage is just as good as
The supporters of
gay marriage were horrified and raised millions to air a counter ad in
which California’s Superintendent of Schools charged that Prop 8 had
nothing to do with the schools, adding that same-sex marriage would not
be taught in public schools.
Those who backed
Prop 8 countered with an ad proving him wrong by noting that 96 percent
of California’s school districts have to teach “respect for marriage and
The battle then
turned nasty. Tens of thousands of “Yes on 8" signs were stolen, or
were vandalized with a swastika or with the word BIGOT. The organizers
of Prop 8 found their own property defaced, such as spray-painting a car
rear window: BIGOTS LIVE HERE, with an arrow pointed toward the
A church was
spray-painted NO ON 8 - EQUAL RIGHTS.
A new round of ads
supporting Prop 8 ads began with a man’s calm voice saying “The
restoration of traditional marriage is something that millions have
supported. Marriage between a man and a woman is hardly controversial.
It binds men and women to create a loving environment for the raising up
It then depicted how
supporters of Prop 8 “have been excoriated, vilified, harassed, called
bigots. Property has been destroyed by roaming vandals, churches have
been defaced, donors to our campaign have been beaten and hospitalized,”
one of whom was pictured in a closeup.
Another ad warned
that if Prop 8 failed, that adoption agencies would be forced to place
children with same-sex couples, that ministers who preach against same
sex marriages may lose their tax exemption or be sued for hate speech,
which has happened in Canada and Sweden.
people contributed $38 million for such ads. Some were targeted at
African Americans who were expected to vote for Obama, but were
supportive of traditional marriage. They were countered by $32 million
of hostile ads, much of it donated by Hollywood stars. It was the most
expensive battle ever fought over a referendum .
In the end, however,
a state which voted 61 percent for Obama, who opposed Proposition 8 --
also voted 52-48 percent in favor of the constitutional amendment
Both sides rejoiced.