by Rex Wockner
A ballot initiative asking voters to repeal Proposition 8 in 2010 was filed with the state of California Sept. 24 by the Los Angeles group Love Honor Cherish.
The proposed initiative would remove from the California Constitution the sentence, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” and replace it with, “Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, creed, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.”
The proposal further states: “To protect religious freedom, no court shall interpret this measure to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person authorized to perform marriages by any religious denomination, church, or other non-profit religious institution to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. The refusal to perform a marriage under this provision shall not be the basis for lawsuit or liability, and shall not affect the tax-exempt status of any religious denomination, church or other religious institution.”
California gay activists are split on whether to ask voters to undo Prop. 8 in 2010 and 2012, with key lobby group Equality California favoring 2012 and leading grassroots group Courage Campaign favoring 2010.
However, Courage Campaign is not supporting the Love Honor Cherish initiative.
“We believe that to wage a winning campaign, there needs to be a strong governing structure, an experienced senior campaign team, the best research to steer the strategy and a sense that the campaign will be funded. We are working on all of those fronts, but because we will not have them in place by the time LHC submits ballot language, we will not be joining them this week,” Courage Campaign spokesman Steve Hildebrand said Sept. 22.
The seeming break between Courage Campaign and Love Honor Cherish led some activists to see a “sub-schism” within the 2010 camp, on top of the main schism between the 2010 and 2012 camps.
But LHC Executive Director John Henning said the decision to file the initiative was based solely on a desire to maximize the amount of time repeal advocates will have to collect the needed 1 million voter signatures.
“We have been aware for some time now that Courage Campaign was doing research and that their timeline doesn’t match up with submitting ballot language by Sept. 25,” Henning said on Sept. 23. “We are still submitting by Sept. 25 because we feel we must preserve the ability to have (the full) 150 days to gather signatures … for the November 2010 ballot.”
After an initiative is filed, Henning said, the attorney general can take up to eight weeks to prepare a “title and summary,” after which signature-gathering can commence. For the November 2010 ballot, signatures must be turned in by April 16, 2010.
“We think it’s great that the Courage Campaign is doing all the research they’re doing,” Henning added. “We’re really looking forward to their research helping to guide the community.
Henning said that if Courage Campaign’s research, which is expected to be finished in mid-October, produces “better” ballot language, then the initiative that was filed Sept. 25 will be abandoned and a new one will be submitted. If that happens, however, repeal advocates would have fewer than the allotted 150 days to gather signatures to make the November 2010 ballot, he said.
Courage Campaign likely stands alone among 2010 advocates in having the resources to employ signature gatherers, making the length of the signature-gathering period less of a critical concern. Other 2010 groups likely would need to rely on volunteer signature gatherers and could therefore need the maximum time available. Exactly 694,354 valid voter signatures are needed. To be safe, that means collecting around 1 million total signatures.
It is unclear if Courage Campaign was irritated by Love Honor Cherish’s move but Hildebrand said: “The Courage Campaign is the only organization in California that has insisted on really smart research, backed it up with a significant financial investment and hired the best people to conduct it. We have to figure out a path for success – no matter if it’s a 2010 ballot fight or if the fight is waged at a later date.”
Proposition 8, passed last Nov. 4 by 52 percent of California voters, amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, which had been legal since June 16, 2008, following a state Supreme Court ruling that banning gay couples from marrying was unconstitutional. In May of this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was a valid exercise of the voters’ power to amend the constitution.