By Lisa Keen
Keen News Service
California’s landmark victory enabling same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses is teetering on the brink of extinction, but, with 96 percent of precincts reported in as of 1:40 p.m. Eastern Time/10:40 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, supporters of Proposition 8, which amends the state constitution to ban recognition of same-sex marriages or relationships of any kind, had a 427,821-vote lead over opponents. And, importantly, there are between 2 and 4 million ballots yet to be counted.
“We are looking at millions of votes yet to be counted,” said Kate Kendall, of the No on Prop 8 executive committee, in a phone interview with California reporters this morning. The San Francisco Chronicle put the number of uncounted absentee and provisional ballots about about two million, Associated Press estimated three million, and Kendall said “upwards of four million.”
Kendall said No on Prop 8 would not comment on the outcome “until there is an authoritative opinion” as to what that result is. She said the California Secretary of State is expected to release a report later Wednesday or Thursday on where outstanding ballots remain to be counted.
Whatever the final result, it appears there may be several legal challenges filed. Associated Press reported that San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced today he will file a legal challenge with the state supreme court over the validity of the ballot measure. And longtime pro-gay attorney Gloria Allred says she will also file a lawsuit challenging the measure’s constitutionality.
If Proposition 8 should pass, it may well go down in history as the most blistering gay civil rights losses ever on a ballot measure – a loss made all the more disturbing by the passage Tuesday of similar amendments in Florida and Arizona, as well as an anti-gay adoption measure passing Arkansas.
The only success on ballot measures for the LGBT community Tuesday night came in Connecticut where, like California, same-sex couples have recently gained the ability to obtain marriage licenses. There, voters soundly defeated an attempt to call for a constitutional convention, where a same-sex marriage ban was expected to top the agenda.
The California conflict over the anti-gay constitutional amendment to ban recognition of gay marriages and relationships was hands-down the most expensive and most hostile ballot battle ever over a gay civil rights issue. There were fistfights in Sacramento, an eerie doomsday-like stadium rally in San Diego, and an unprecedented $74 million spent on campaigns for and against.
The Los Angeles Times reported that many voters said they were persuaded by a pro-Proposition 8 television ad which showed a young girl telling her mother that in school that day, she learned “how a prince married a prince.”
“Think it can’t happen?” asked the voice over. “It’s already happened. Teaching about gay marriage will happen unless we pass Proposition 8.”
The prince story was reference to a children’s book, The King and King, which has been used by some public school districts around the country as part of a curriculum to illustrate that families are diverse. It also played off a controversial incident in San Francisco in which a first-grade class at a public school was taken to their teacher’s same-sex wedding to throw rose petals.
The Sacramento Bee newspaper ran an advertisement for Yes on Proposition 8 on Sunday, November 2, which claimed that unless Proposition 8 passes, gay marriage will be required curriculum in California public schools. The following day, the newspaper carried an “Ad Watch,” noting that the advertisement was misleading and untrue.
The vote in California so far was roughly 5.2 million for, 4.8 million against. Given that Republican presidential candidate John McCain and third party candidates won a total of only 3.9 million votes in California, that means as many as 1.3 million votes for Proposition 8 likely came from voters who also supported Obama. There was some speculation before Tuesday’s vote that a high voter turnout among African Americans and Hispanics for Obama might work in favor of the anti-gay amendment. African-Americans and Latinos comprised about 28 percent of California’s vote Tuesday, the overwhelming majority of whom voted for Obama. And an exit poll conducted by major media outlets found that 70 percent of African American voters and 53 percent of Latino voters supported Proposition 8. That compares with only 49 percent of white voters who supported the measure.
Voters with children under 18 were much more likely to support Proposition 8 than those who did not. Of those who had children under 18, 64 percent supported the measure; of those who did not, only 44 percent supported the measure.
Money poured into California from all over the country to support and oppose the measure. Just days before the election, the Deseret News of reported that WordPerfect software founder Alan Ashton, a resident of Utah, donated $1 million to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign. Ashton is the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church, members of which donated several million dollars to the Proposition 8 effort, according to an ABC report.
Florida, Arizona, Arkansas votes
Florida’s Amendment too needed 60 percent support to pass; it got 62 percent. The measure amends the state constitution to define marriage as
“the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife” and states that “no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
Arizona’s Proposition 102 passed with 56 percent support compared to 44 percent opposition. The initiative amends the state constitution to say that “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” Voters rejected a similar measure in 2006.
In Arkansas, 57 percent of voters supported Initiative 1, which bans an individual who is “cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of marriage which is valid under the constitution and laws of this state” from adopting or serving as a foster parent to a child.
Connecticut voters rejected the idea to hold a constitutional convention by 59 percent, to 41 percent in favor of holding one.