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How Proposition 8 was won -- and lost

The Obama victory was tempered in certain circles of California by the victory of Proposition 8 -- an outcome that seemed to genuinely shock many opponents. How did the Yes on 8 crowd win the day? Political experts told The Times' Dan Morain a lot had to do with a simple, clear message that hit with a broad cross-section of voters:

San Francisco mayor Gavin NewsomThey were able to focus the debate on their assertion that without the ban, public school children would be indoctrinated into accepting gay marriage against their parents' wishes, churches would be sanctioned for not performing same-sex weddings, and the institution of marriage would be irreparably harmed. Supporters of gay marriage, along with political leaders including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco) and the state's superintendent of public instruction, denounced those messages as scare tactics, but they were not able to sway voters. Preliminary returns showed Proposition 8 passing 52% to 48%. "It was masterful of the campaign to raise the implications of what it could mean in terms of the school system," said Republican political consultant Wayne Johnson. He said voters may have started out "thinking that as long as it doesn't affect me, do what you want," but the supporters shifted the focus to children.

Phil Bronstein says one statement by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom gave the Yes on 8 team a great weapon:

Gavin Newsom screwed it up. Voters are the ones who make the decision but no one person handed the Yes on 8 campaign a more persuasive and compelling sound bite than our own mayor. Even if there were other flaws in the anti-8 operation, he was unquestionably the poster child for the pro-8 push, whether you like it or not. And unlike Willie Brown, whose 70s high afro and muttonchop sideburn photo got used as a thinly disguised racial scare tactic in the 80s by some Republican candidates for the State legislature (nothing he could do about it), Mr. Newsom willingly and imperiously handed over the ammunition in yesterday's election.

--Shelby Grad

Photo of Gavin Newsom: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (41)

Regarding Proposition 8--

The act of becoming married neither infringes upon nor restricts the rights and freedoms of other persons or groups.

Prohibiting marriage based on a characteristic shared by a group or class of people does infringe upon and restrict the rights and freedoms of that class of people.

Prohibiting the marriage of homosexuals is the same as prohibiting the marriage of heterosexuals, or of people of mixed race, or people with blue eyes, or people who like football or are less than 5 feet tall. It unfairly abridges the rights and freedoms of a particular class of people, like prohibiting women from voting or blacks from sharing public bathroom facilities with whites.

Proposition 8 has that fundamental flaw that makes it unfair and unconstitutional. Sooner or later a ban against gay marriage, like all other arbitrarily prejudicial laws, will be challenged and destroyed on that basis.


I am a high school teacher and yesterday the kids were talking politics in the halls! (This is not the norm.)
Whether or not gay marriage is a constitutional right, teachers must protect their students from discrimination. Yesterday, in the aftermath of this decision, I had MORE conversations with students about homosexuality than I have ever had before... the very thing that the supporters of 8 "feared."

In addition to Gavin Newsom's arrogant dismissal of otjher reasonable voices, the No on 8 movement stepped all over it's message of tolerance, by vilifying religious opponents as bigots and haters. Ad hominem arguments are inherently fallacies. Using intolerance in an ad hominem argument and then shining the light on your own intolerance can some times turn a 5 % lead into a 5% loss as it did here. Votes notice such things.

Most white Americans in the 1950s were opposed to interracial marriage and did not see laws banning interracial marriage as an affront to the principles of American democracy. A 1958 Gallup poll showed that 96 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Representative Seaborn Roddenbery compared the marriage of an African American man and a white women to the enslavement of white women, and warned of future civil war that would ensue if interracial marriage was not made illegal nationwide: His speech to pass an amendment to the US Constitution: “No brutality, no infamy, no degradation in all the years of southern slavery, possessed such villainous character and such atrocious qualities as the provision of the laws of Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states which allow the marriage of the negro, Jack Johnson, to a woman of Caucasian strain. [Applause]. Gentleman, I offer this resolution ... that the States of the Union may have an opportunity to ratify it. ... Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant to the very principles of Saxon government. It is subversive of social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery of white women to black beasts will bring this nation a conflict as fatal as ever reddened the soil of Virginia or crimsoned the mountain paths of Pennsylvania. ... Let us uproot and exterminate now this debasing, ultra-demoralizing, un-American and inhuman leprosy” Congressional Record, 62d. Congr., 3d. Sess., December 11, 1912, pp. 502-503. Note that many of the laws were not just whites and African Americans. It was whites not allowed to marry any other race based on biblical teachings. History is doomed to repeat itself.

I don't get it. No one cares whether or not homosexuals are allowed to marry. If that's what they want to do, then so be it. They can take it up with God when they meet their maker. He'll let them know that their marriage was nothing but a sham. However, my concern isn't about gays being married. My concern and the reason I whole heartedly support YES ON 8 is the ramifications if prop 8 didn't pass. You have to be living with your head in a hole if you really think prop 8 is JUST ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE. I don't push my heterosexual "rights" and beliefs on others. However, you better believe if prop 8 didn't pass there would be lawsuit after lawsuit from homosexuals (with the support and even funding from the ACLU) until their "rights" and lifestyle was PUSHED into my life. I don't want my children being taught that being gay is "another form of lifestyle". I don't want my church being told whom they must perform marriage ceremonies on. I don't want my rights trampled on because someone else insists that they have "more" rights since they are considered a "minority". It's absurd. I had a friend tell me "just stay out of their bedroom". Let me tell you, if it STAYED in their bedroom and didn't infringe on the rights of others I wouldn't care. Let me remind you, the government didn't stay out of the Mormon's "bedrooms" when plural marriage was practiced. What makes "equal rights" for gays more important than anyone else's rights?

It makes me want to move to CA to help in the fight, but then who would deal with the bigots in TN? They're everywhere!!
My brother refuses to meet my partner, and will not allow us to be around his child. When she grows up and wonders why she doesn't have a close relationship with her VERY cool Aunt Debra, what's he going to say then? What if by then she has discovered for herself that she is gay? They say it's a choice, it's a sin, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line....separate but equal never works. You label someone as different, or worse yet, wrong, and you are setting the example of bigotry and intolerance for your children. They are going to be very disapopinted in you when they figure it out.

"the No on 8 movement stepped all over it's message of tolerance, by vilifying religious opponents as bigots and haters"
ok. We hear people who say "i don't want a black president, but i'm not racist" or "i don't want my daughter to marry a black man, but i'm not a bigot" or "i will never speak to my son if he's gay, but i'm not a hater".
I agree that that putting a the label "bigot" or "hater" may not be the right titles, but how do you explain the people who make those comments and think they have the right to affect the lives of others?
As americans we "gave" interracial couples the right to marry. A right that should not need to be "given" but belongs every human couple who decides to take the big step to commit to each other.

Those "reasonable voices" did not want to allow for interracial marriage in the 60's, and some day gay marriage will not be an issue.


Paula: Your comparison of how you feel about Obama (even though you did not vote for him) and how gay people and their millions of supporters feel about the passage of Prop 8 is fundamentally flawed. Obama's win, however disappointing to you, did not relegate you to a second-class citizen. You still have every right you had on November 3. Prop 8, on the other hand, removed a right from gay people in CA and they now have FEWER rights than they had on November 3. Get it?? Gay people and their supporters cannot and will not simply 'move on' from this. Not now. Not ever - any more than you would be able to move on if you were suddenly told yesterday that you personally were unfit and unworthy of marriage equality. If you can suppress your glee for one moment at the hurt and anger this has caused gay people, be prepared to hear a whole lot more about this in the months and years ahead -- however long it takes.

it's dissappointing that we have high school teachers like "Sarah" who readily practice intellectual dishonesty. Prop 8 proponents did not fear a discussion about homosexuality as it relates to politics or otherwise. On the contrary, any fair minded person welcomes that discussion. The concern expressed was over the redifinition of marriage and the teaching of "gay marriage" as being of the same value and essence as traditional heterosexual marriage when science, common sense, and reality prove otherwise.

People who are crying "Equality for All" had better be prepared to support polygamy, sibling marriages, and other nontraditional unions as marriage. Otherwise, they are hypocrites.

If Prop 8 failed and I were a polygamist, I'd be challenging anti-bigamy laws as unconstitutional. Based on the state supreme court's logic (and without Prop 8), ANY limits placed on marriage (polygamy, sibling marriages, etc.) would likely be deemed unconstitutional.

Marriage has been deemed a "fundamental right" under the state constitution, and cannot be limited unless there is a compelling state interest. None exists to make the distinction between gay marriage and polygamy or other nontraditional unions.

I am sad that Prop 8 has caused so much hurt. But most voters believe it is best for our society to protect the historical definition of marriage.

It is fine to have to beliefs against gays based on certain churches (biased and outdated bible) but to use the "belief" and not a "fact" to discriminate and second class a minority group is WRONG. It is very common that supporter of Prop 8 use " FEAR TACTICS to mislead the real issue here which is equal protection for everyone blacks, asian, arab decent, gays, straights, disable people ect... The real issue here is equal right for two adults who want to get married (unions don't have the same right as marriage) and it is NOT ABOUT with teaching children at school about gay marriage or impose sexual preference on people. Also that i find it is quite sad and ironic that majority Africian-American support Prop 8 which discriminates a minority group. If they don't want to be discriminated then please don't discriminate others based on your religious belief. We should educate people about tolerance and separate religion from law making.

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to repeal D.O.M.A.....the "Defense" Of Marriage Act. And with a Democratic majority in the house & senate has a good shot, as well as--Don't Forget--naming U.S. Supreme Court justices. That is the silver lining in this story. Just chill and wait.....wait

Minority = GAY & LESBIAN
Minority = POLIGAMY


Heck if the Gay have rights so too MUST the other MINORITIES!

I am sorry but "Marriage" has been clearly defined before the U.S even came into being. Civil unions suit me just fine for Homosexuals. Also gay is not a ethnic group.

What's the big deal? Isn't this supposed to be a democracy? Why are all these liberal bastards trying to impose their point of view over everybody? A law was proposed, everyone voted, and it passed. Period. Get over it.

Now they want to challenge the vote, take it to the court, have somebody else decide... whatever goes just as long as it is THEIR will that prevails, right? As I said, you lost. Get over it.

Now they want to challenge the vote, take it to the court, have somebody else decide... whatever goes just as long as it is THEIR will that prevails, right? As I said, you lost. Get over it.

Posted by: Fetrovsky | November 06, 2008 at 09:37 AM


Let's take it to the streets, my fellow Gay Americans! Rise Up!


So if one day, all the whites decided to vote a proposition that states all other races are below the caucasian race, do you think the government should pass that proposition?

Democracy strive under the condition that the "People" are smart and knows what's good for themselves.

But in a condition where the slight majority (52%!) habours so much hate and contempt for the minority, then, democracy is not a wise system to pursue. For if democracy is built on a nation that is infested with hatred amongst one another, the state would simply collapse as the minorities would be stripped of every single right.

My daughter (13 years old) was singled out in her 8th grade class last Friday for supporting the Proposition 8 campaign. Their teacher began the discussion by explaining that she is against Prop 8 and explained why Prop 8 was wrong for society. She ten asked for those students who supported Prop 8 to raise their hands. Only four students (out of 28) raised their hands.This shameful teacher made the four students feel like they had voted wrong and proceeded to tell them why. This is exactly why I supported Prop 8 and am glad it won. Before that happened, I had heard of other stories, but never was quite sure how accurate they were. Now that it has happened to our family, I'm 100% resolute in resisting any future attempt to change the constitution.

The only "rights" disputed in this was the right to redefine the term "marriage" legally. Changing legal definitions for a sense of self-satisfaction, at the cost of mitigating the strength of society's cultural/social/biological/psychological/educational/moral/intellectual developmental foundation is not the right of a minority. It's not anyone's right. It's ridiculous the proposition had to be drafted in the first place to remove the modifiers of "traditional" in front of "marriage". That's as silly as forcing us to begin saying "A square can have as many sides as it wants, but a traditional square only has 4!"

I am genuinely surprised that so many have so little understanding about the actual position that gay and lesbian couples are put in when they want to commit to each other for life. So often the argument is that they are infringing on everyone else's rights to define marriage and not as if they are just trying to ensure their own civil rights under the law, for their own relationship.

If a same-sex couple gets married, it really has no bearing at all on my own marriage or on the views of my own church about same-sex marriage, or what I will teach my children, which is my own responsibility. Supporters of proposition 8 succeeded in framing this as an infringement on the rights of the majority as opposed to our constitution's stance on protecting the rights of minorities.
To me this is a common issue in American politics. Would I personally have an abortion? No. Do I feel comfortable actively voting against another woman's right to choose what is best for her? Absolutely not. Therefore I can practice my morality, and encourage my friends to make the best choices for them, but I'm not going to use the law to actively remove the rights of others. There were nearly 18,000 couples, many who have been committed to each other for decades (better rates than many heterosexual couples, despite overwhelming difficulties and lack of support) that had a LEGAL right to marriage under law one day, and not the next.

Do I feel as though I represent Christ's love by excluding them from legal protections? No. Does proposition 8 have anything to do with my own faith or practice? No. As Jesus Christ said, render unto Caesar that which is Caesars (i.e., our constitutional protection of minorities), and render unto God that which is God's.

This just shows how horribly backward America is next to the rest of the civilised world

your a bunch of Neanderthals

Actually, we liberal bastards aren't trying to impose our point of view on people.

People who preferred marriage to be restricted to a man and a woman have used the political process to gain social and economic benefits.

Fine. But the political process is not holy, and not a religion. Now some unmarriageable couples (in the sense of many religions) are using the political process to take the same goods. (Get over it.)

The real problem is the attempted ensnarlment of a sacrament with the affairs of a secular government. Marriage would ideally be left to the churches.

Think about this: Most marriage laws are written by states for administering the "sacrament" of divorce. The laws also entitle the federal government to more money from married couples.

But if married couples are being doled preferences that same-sex couples are denied, then I am supportive of establishing same-sex civil marriage.

I'm sure supporters of Proposition 8 would like to thank San Francisco first grade teacher, Erin Carder, for helping galvanize votes. When she took her first grade class on a field trip to city hall to watch her same-sex marriage on October 11th, the timing couldn't have been better. It was proof that there would be a "spill-over" into public school education.

The most thanks, however, should go to Gavin Newsome. He is the face of gay rights and, unfortunately, his greatest talent is in totally infuriating others. His pompousness is becoming legendary. If Gavin is for it, you can be sure that people will vote against it - he is disliked that much.

It's very simple: LEAVE THE WORD "MARRIAGE" ALONE. It's a word with an established meaning--Man and Wife. The Court was wrong, by a 4/3 margin, in ruling that the word itself (assuming all rights are otherwise equally shared) is a "fundamental right." That's absurd. Courts can be wrong, and that's what happened here, causing the current chaos.

Marriage is a brand name. It has always meant something specific. Now, the gay movement is trying to steal and hijack a word that does not apply to them. Period.

Develop your own brand name. Be proud. Civil unions, domestic partnerships, equality under the law has been the amazing accomplishments of the gay movement. They should be proud of, and grateful for, those expanded rights.

However, hijacking the word marriage was a bad move.

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