By Lisa Keen
Keen News Service
In the days since 52 percent of California voters apparently passed an amendment to their state constitution to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry,” thousands of LGBT people have poured into the streets to protest, three lawsuits have been filed, at least two calls have been made for boycotts – including one on state taxes, the state’s attorney general has vowed that existing same-sex marriages are safe and, 3,000 miles away, the movement has announced its determination to push even harder for equality in marriage in other states.
And there are still about 2.7 million votes yet to be counted.
The margin of victory for the Yes on 8 side has actually shrunk since No on Prop 8 officials conceded last Thursday. According to the Secretary of State’s office, as of the morning of Nov. 10, 5,668,960 voters supported Proposition 8, while 5,173,113 voted against it last Tuesday. The difference is 495,847 votes.
Last Thursday, the difference was 504,479 votes. A story in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times notes that “roughly” 2.7 million ballots have still not be counted – either because they were mail-in ballots which arrived late, were ballots that were damaged during handling and have to be examined one by one, or were ballots where the voter’s right to cast a vote was challenged. The paper said its estimate comes from reports filed by voter registration officials from California’s 58 counties and interviews with officials in the state’s largest counties.
The Times did not suggest that the as yet uncounted votes could close the margin and change the result of the voting.
“In order to reverse that result,” said the Times, “opponents of the measure would have to win just more than 59 percent of the uncounted ballots” and so far, they’ve won only 47.6 percent of them.”
The LGBT community does not appear to be expending much time hoping for a surprise victory from the uncounted votes. Instead, many are venting, while others are suing.
Angry but peaceful protests against the passage of Proposition 8 broke out in numerous cities around California in the past week. They rallied in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, plus at the capitol building in Sacramento, in front of the Mormon Temple in Oakland and outside the evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County. They blocked rush hour traffic and called for boycotts.
Gay political blogger John Aravois suggested a boycott of ski resorts in Utah – where millions of dollars was donated by members of the Mormon Church to support passage of Proposition 8 in California – and a Hollywood boycott of the immensely popular Sundance Film Festival which is held in Utah each January.
Well-known and popular rock singer Melissa Etheridge posted her reaction to the passage of Prop 8 on her Web site:
“I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen,” wrote Etheridge. “I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.”
While the protests and calls for boycotts are helping vent anger and frustration, lawsuits have been launched in hopes of actually undoing the anti-gay amendment. Three lawsuits were filed during the past week, challenging the constitutionality of the amendment to the state constitution.
One lawsuit, Strauss v. Horton, was filed by Lambda Legal Defense, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It argues that the vote on Proposition 8, “if it truly has been enacted, would constitute a revision of the California Constitution because it alters underlying principles on which the California Constitution is based and makes far-reaching changes to the nature of our basic governmental plan by severely compromising the core constitutional principle of equal protection of the laws, depriving a vulnerable minority of fundamental rights, inscribing discrimination based on a suspect classification into the Constitution, and destroying the courts’ quintessential power and role of protecting minorities and enforcing the guarantee of equal protection under the law.”
Famed Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, on behalf of longtime lesbian activist Robin Tyler and her spouse Diane Olson, also filed a lawsuit. And the city attorneys of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Clara County filed a joint petition to the state supreme court asking it to invalidate Proposition 8.
California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told CNN Sunday that he supports the lawsuits and expressed his unhappiness with passage of the amendment. He likened the struggle to that of couples seeking to strike down bans against interracial marriage in California in 1948. But a Los Angeles Times editorial took him to task for being “awfully quiet” about the issue prior to the vote.
Meanwhile, on Friday night and 3,000 miles away, the New England-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders – which won the landmark marriage cases in Massachusetts and Connecticut – vowed to secure full equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in all six New England states by 2012.
Massachusetts – as of May 2004 – and Connecticut – as of Nov. 12 of this year – are already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Vermont and New Hampshire have civil unions. Rhode Island couples can obtain marriage licenses in Massachusetts or Connecticut. Only Maine has no legal recognition yet for same-sex relationships.
And as GLAD’s lead attorney, Mary Bonauto, pointed out to the record-breaking crowd at its Spirit of Justice dinner in Boston, the Iowa Supreme Court will soon rule on equal marriage rights in that state and the legislatures of New York and New Jersey have recently won new Democratic majorities that could approve equal marriage rights in those states as early as next year.
But in California, the negative impact of Proposition 8 was nevertheless felt immediately for gay couples. According to news reports, a gay male couple sought a marriage license in Sacramento on Nov. 5, and were turned away. California Attorney General Jerry Brown said that same day that the state would continue to recognize the marriage licenses of an estimated 18,0000 or more same-sex couples who married on or before the Nov. 4 election but that no license sought after that date would be considered valid.