Editors' Note: Guest blogger Ryan Secord is a recent graduate from Michigan State University where he studied political science and journalism. He worked for the Capital News Service as a state and federal government correspondent, the Hillsdale Daily News, and occasionally writes opinion pieces for the LansingOnlineNews.com. This is part two in "A Queer Endeavour: California's Proposition 8 and Why State Laws Banning Same Sex Marriage Are Unconstitutional," a three part series examining marriage bans from the perspective of a straight man. Part one ran yesterday and part three will run on Friday.
On May 16, 2008, gay couples across the globe rejoiced when the California Supreme Court threw out two state laws establishing marriage between one man and one woman. It seemed the gay manifest destiny had reached maximum velocity, ready to propel their momentum into the politics of the rest of the country and bring marriage equality to the rest of Americans. But this victory was short lived; and a crushing defeat brought by conservative and Christian groups from around the world was about to be levied to the gay cause in California.
Conservative groups anticipating the repeal of their favored "heterosexuals only" laws began forming political action groups in California before the court had even made its decision. Conservatives worked tirelessly to meet the requirements of adding their ballot initiative to the 2008 elections, obtaining the 694,354 signatures they needed from California residents to bring it to vote. Once this happened, Proposition 8 was born.
Proposition 8 quickly caught the eye of the entire nation, both conservatives and gay activists knowing that whichever side won had the potential of land sliding the other in legislative referendums across the country. Outside interference was prevalent. For gays, liberal groups like MoveOn.org and various state gay activists groups poured millions of dollars in donations to purchase advertising to help fight Prop. 8. The same occurred with the conservatives in the state, who received millions in donations from church groups and conservative organizations, including Utah's Mormon Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Gay rights organizations in California managed to raise $39.9 million in donations, while the conservative pushers of Prop. 8 raised $43.3 million, totaling to over $83 million. Needless to say, aside from the presidential election, more money was spent on Prop. 8 than any other ballot initiative, senate, representative or gubernatorial race in the entire country.
An interesting fact to note here, much to the dismay of liberals and gays alike, minorities showed up in vast numbers to punch a hole in their ballot for Barack Obama, and then, two lines down, punch one for the passing of Prop. 8.
As it turns out, the vast amounts of African Americans who showed up to vote for Obama turned out to be the gay agendas downfall with Prop. 8. An exit-poll after the November 3 elected showed that 70 percent of African Americans, who are deeply religious, voted for the passing of Prop. 8.
This occurred, while more than half of Hispanic voters in California also favored Prop 8, effectively nixing the political advantage of liberalism in the state.
When all the money was spent and the election was over, 18,000 gay couples had wed in California, only to wake up on November 4 to find those marriages could be in jeopardy, again.
Proposition 8 passed 52 percent to 48 percent, ending the hopes of gay marriage in California.
Gays took to the streets immediately in anger and protested its passing, wondering how the Golden State could have betrayed their dream.
After the election, chaos ensued as conservative groups scrambled to place political pressure on the California Supreme Court to annul the 18,000 marriages that had occurred before Prop. 8's passing. Prop. 8 was challenged in the same court that had legalized same sex marriage to begin with, and again, the nation held its breath.
On May 26, 2008, the California Supreme Court Upheld Prop. 8 on the basis that it "constitutes a permissible constitutional amendment." However, the court refused to annul the 18,000 marriages that had happened before Prop. 8's passing, so there was a sigh of relief there.
While it might have seemed like a victory at the time for conservatives and their Christian friends and a crushing defeat for gay activists, Prop. 8 only opened a can of worms that conservatives now might wish they never had.
On May 23, 2009, The American Foundation for Equal Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Prop. 8 at the federal level. That case was accepted and is still before Judge Vaughn Walker today.
The case has come up with stunning revelations, including Judge Walker, who will be the sole determiner of the case after all arguments are heard, is gay. Despite the fact that judges are assigned randomly to cases, conservative and Christian groups across the nation are already crying foul.
Whichever way Walker rules, the case is sure burden the appeals process until it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning a final decision could take up to a decade.
Here is where we step back from the history of gay rights and marriage challenges in U.S. history, and back to the beginning where our forefathers and Thomas Paine might have answered these questions for us long before gay marriage was even considered a valid political issue.