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California -- the most gay-friendly state in the Union

October 9, 2008 |  9:33 am

Set_a_spell

Yes, we're in the midst of a bitter battle right now over Prop. 8, in which foes of gay marriage (or, to put it another way, proponents of hetero-only marriage) would like to amend the California Constitution to  outlaw marriages between same-sex couples. And yes, voters did pass Prop. 22 eight years ago, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

But the various social gains and legal victories over the years add up, and California leads the nation in gay rights. Here's the story from our own Maura Dolan and Jessica Garrison:

No matter what voters decide this November on same-sex marriage, the election will not change one fact: Over the last decade, California has become the nation's leader in providing legal protections to gays and lesbians.

This has happened not just because of high-profile gestures like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to issue the nation's first same-sex marriage licenses in 2004 but also because of a carefully crafted campaign to enact laws in the state Legislature and push for court decisions to support and enhance the new rights.

The changes have delighted some Californians and alarmed others.

Gay rights have been expanded in "little bites that people found hard to argue with at the time," said Matt McReynolds, staff attorney of the conservative Pacific Justice Institute. "And all of a sudden, we are at a point where gay rights trump religious rights."

For a list of protections guaranteed by California, check out the full story here. Our database of who's donating both for and against Prop. 8 is here.

-- Veronique de Turenne

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