Gay Marriage on Hold in California for Now
Gay rights supporters in California are debating when the next assault on the state’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban should be launched. Although many Prop. 8 opponents are eager to get to work before the 2010 elections, Equality California, the state’s largest gay-rights group, is setting its sights on 2012. Other gay-rights groups, like the Courage Campaign, are moving ahead with plans for the 2010 ballot.
The question of when to go back to the polls has been a central issue for gay-rights activists ever since California voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage a year ago. Opponents of the ban are split on whether they can gather enough money and media in time to make an effective push in just one year. Those on the fast track claim the 2012 ballot is too far away and the best time to drum up support is right now.
Equality California disagrees, saying the 2012 date allows plenty of time to gather the necessary support and that the chances of success will be better in the high-turnout presidential election in 2012 than in the lesser gubernatorial contest set for 2010.
Proposition 8 passed in the California legislature with 52% of the vote after very expensive campaigns by both sides. Pro Gay activists generally admit that the Anti-8 campaign didn’t have enough time or money to gather the support necessary to squash the bill, especially among the state’s black and Latino voters. It is estimated that it could take $50 million to run another Stop Prop. 8 campaign, and that one year is not enough time to secure the funds. Even though recent polls have suggested that support for same-sex marriage has been increasing in other states around the nation, Equality California advocates the 2012 date as the best option in the Golden State.
Although President Obama’s new Justice Department has defended the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in which the federal government defined marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman, the president just this week spoke against it saying “While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law.”
If gay rights supporters want to make sure they prevail in the coming battle, it appears that waiting until 2012 to amend the California Constitution is probably a wise decision.