FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE BALLOT INITIATIVE TO REPEAL PROP 8
Below are the answers to some common questions about the 2012 proposition to repeal Prop 8 and restore equal marriage rights in California.
Where/How do I sign?”
The most immediate way to sign the petition is to download it, sign, and mail it to us (click “Download the Petition”). However, we also have signature gatherers out in public places across the state almost every day. Please check our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.
What is Proposition 8?
Prop 8 is an amendment to the California State Constitution, which was enacted by the voters in November 2008. It denies same-sex couples the right to marry, thereby discriminating against loving gay and lesbian couples and their families. The right of same-sex couples to marry had been recognized by the California Supreme Court in May 2008, and in the few months between that recognition and the passage of Prop 8, approximately 18,000 same-sex couples married in California.
What would the initiative do?
The initiative will repeal Prop 8 and restore marriage equality in California. It also makes clear that no church or other religious group will be required to perform same-sex marriages.
Why is marriage so important?
Two adults in a committed, loving, trusting relationship deserve the right to share the benefits of obligations of marriage. Many gay and lesbian couples and their children live in California. They are your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives and they deserve the same dignity and security as every other family.
Why do we have to call it “marriage”?
When a couple gets married, they’re telling each other that their commitment is going to last. Marriage is also the way that a couple describes their commitment to the outside world. Everyone knows what it means when someone says “we’re married.” When loving gay and lesbian couples aren’t allowed to get married, the message is that their relationship isn’t as as valuable as a straight couple’s’ relationships. But don’t all loving couples deserve the same rights?
Can’t gay and lesbian couples get the same rights some other way?
In this country, we have come to know that separate but equal is just another way to treat some people unfairly. Domestic partnerships or civil unions don’t provide the same security and are not as readily recognized and understood as marriage, and are used as a way to exclude people from marriage and treat people as second class citizens. Our whole society is built around the idea that some day a child will grow up, fall in love, and get married. No one dreams of being “domestic partnered.” No father wants to walk his daughter down the aisle to a “domestic partnership.”
I’m gay, and I’m not getting married. Why should I care?
Prop 8 isn’t just about marriage. It separates out gay and lesbian people as less than straight people under the law. Until a gay couple’s relationship is treated the same as a straight couple’s, every gay and lesbian person is a second-class citizen — regardless of whether they ever get married.
Isn’t there a court case that has already eliminated Prop 8?
No. In the Perry case, a trial judge ruled that Prop 8 violates the federal constitution and ordered same-sex marriages to resume. Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit “stayed” his decision so while the case is being appealed so, despite the trial court’s favorable ruling, at this time, same-sex couples cannot marry in California. The Ninth Circuit Court of appeal is expected to rule shortly and will hopefully affirm the trial court’s decision. If that happens, the courts will then decide whether same-sex marriages resume in California immediately or whether the stay should continue during the appellate process. Unfortunately, that process may take years. In the meantime, same sex couples will not be able to marry and Prop 8 will stay in our constitution sending a strong message to LGBT people everywhere that their relationships, and their lives, have less value.
Wouldn’t the court case make same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States?
In theory, it could. But even though it should, it is extremely unlikely to do at this point in time. Unfortunately, we have a very conservative Supreme Court. Remember Bush v. Gore. And to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide, the Supreme Court would be invalidating laws in dozens of states around the country and cause an enormous outcry among conservatives against the court. For example, Newt Gingrich has already stated that if the Supreme Court were to make same-sex marriage legal, he wouldn’t follow the Court’s decision.
Is there a chance we might lose the court case?
Yes. Unfortunately, this is a real possibility. The Supreme Court could find that gay and lesbian couples have no right to marry under the United States Constitution. If it did, it might be decades before same-sex couples could marry in every state in the US. For example, it took 17 years before Bowers v. Hardwick, which held that gays and lesbians had no right to have private, adult consensual sex, was reversed. This huge risk of loss is why Lambda Legal and other LGBT rights organizations did not bring the Perry case. They believed that it was too early to do so.
Why not wait?
Life is not eternal. And waiting undermines the importance of the freedom to marry. By waiting, don’t we send a message that the right isn’t that important? Every day that Prop 8 stays in our constitution is a day the precious right to marry is stolen from millions of Californians. It has been more than three years since Prop 8 was enacted and, during that time, partners who have devoted their lives to each other have died waiting for their right to get married. Other couples have been deprived by the passage of time from sharing the most important day of their lives with parents and other important people in their lives. If we do not act now, our next opportunity to Repeal Prop 8 won’t come until November 2014. To accept such a delay would be to validate the message that gays and lesbians are not equal citizens. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, waiting is not an option when you are fighting the “degenerating sense of nobodiness” that comes from discrimination.
Isn’t it wrong to put the rights of a minority up to a vote?
It is wrong for a majority to take away the rights of a minority, as happened when Prop 8 passed. However, it is well-rooted in our history and perfectly moral to vote to give a group of people rights. For example, Californians voted in a 1911 special election to give women the right to vote. Similar votes across the country, promoted and vigorously supported by the now famous heroes of the Suffragist Movement, paved the way for the ultimate passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in federal elections.
Wouldn’t a ballot proposition hurt the court case?
No. Judges decide cases on the law and should give no consideration to a pending ballot measure, which is just a question to the voters. If the ballot proposition succeeds while an appeal of the Perry case to the US Supreme Court is still pending, the case would be rendered moot and would not be heard. The reason for this is that the plaintiffs, who are seeking the right to marry, would be allowed to marry. This would not, however, end the battle in the courts. Many other pending cases are making their way to the Supreme Court, and the American Foundation for Equal Rights has pledged to bring actions in other states if the Perry case does not have the effect of legalizing same-sex marriage in every US state and territory.
Are there no other options?
No. Prop 8 is a constitutional provision enacted by the people of California. The Governor and the State Legislature are powerless to change it. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Prop 8, it will remain the law until a majority the people of California vote to repeal it.
What are the chances of success?
Very high. The world has changed since 2008. Several state and national polls have shown a majority of Californians now support the right of gays and lesbians to marry.
Who is behind this initiative?
The proposition was submitted by Love Honor Cherish, an organization founded in May 2008 and dedicated to restoring the right of same sex couples to marry in California. It is supported by an ever-growing coalition of activists all over California.
How does this work?
To qualify the initiative for the November 2012 ballot, we must gather over 1,000,000 signatures and submit them by the mid-April.
How would a ballot initiative on marriage affect efforts to preserve the FAIR Education Act?
The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, Respectful Education Act, also known as SB48 or the FAIR Education Act, requires schools to include information about the historical contributions of LGBT people, along with other groups, in social studies courses and prohibits schools from adopting discriminatory materials that reflect adversely on LGBT people. A conservative group is now circulating a proposition to repeal those provisions. That proposition could also be on the November ballot. We believe it would be a mistake to once again just be on defense. If we have to campaign about LGBT families anyway, why not also seek marriage?A broader battle on the issue of marriage equality and equal rights is also more likely to bring progressive voters out to the polls and to generate the kind of interest (and campaign donations) that would be necessary to mount a successful campaign to protect the FAIR Education Act.
If the marriage initiative qualifies for the ballot, who would run the campaign?
We have all learned much from the failure of the No on 8 campaign. We fully intend to apply those lessons. The campaign will need to be inclusive, multicultural and address the issues of LGBT equality head on and unapologetically. It must include and work with a broad spectrum of progressive organizations whether they are primarily focused on LGBT rights or not. In building that campaign, we have enlisted the advice of some of California’s top political strategists.
How much would it cost?
The cost of collecting the signatures – which we are doing by both a volunteer and paid effort – is estimated at approximately one and a half million dollars. We estimate that the campaign itself would cost far less than the campaign against Prop 8 based on current media costs, which are less than in 2008, and based on other factors, such as our ability to rely to a greater extent on social media. It is also not clear that the people who contributed heavily to the Yes on 8 campaign are willing to foot the bill again, particularly given the backlash they have suffered. The Mormon Church will likely concentrate its efforts on electing Mitt Romney President.
What can I do?
You can volunteer your time or money and encourage others to do the same. To print a copy of the petition and instructions on how to collect signatures, go to the www.lovehonorcherish.org website. You can donate money on that site or attend or host a fundraising event. Any contribution, big or small is appreciated.
Who can sign the petition?
To sign the petition one must be registered to vote in California. Only people registered to vote in the same county can sign the same sheet.
Who can gather signatures?
To gather signatures, you must be either (a) registered to vote in the state of California, or (b) eligible to register to vote in the state of California. You are eligible to register to vote in the state of California if you are: (1) a United States citizen; (2) a resident of California; (3) at least 18 years of age; (4) not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; and (4) have not have been judged by a court to be mentally incompetent.