Friday, May 16, 2008

WILL CALIFORNIA BAN GAY MARRIAGE BY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT?

JOSH GOODMAN, GOVERNING [The] ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage was historic. In six months, it could be history.

That's because California is likely to vote this fall on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Supporters of the measure submitted 1.1 million signatures to the Secretary of State (they only needed about 700,000) and are awaiting confirmation that gay marriage will appear on the November ballot.

There are some good reasons to think the amendment will pass. In 2000, Californians gave 61% of the vote to an initiative to prohibit gay marriage -- that's the law that the court overturned yesterday. The new proposal is for a constitutional amendment, while the 2000 vote was on a mere statute, but voters probably won't think too much about that distinction.

What's more, gay marriage opponents have a near-perfect record in these fights. When states' electorates have voted on constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, 26 out of 27 times they have passed. The only one that didn't was in Arizona, where the amendment also would have forbidden civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Of course, conservative states have been more likely to hold votes on gay marriage than liberal ones. But some fairly Democratic states, including Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan, have approved gay marriage bans.. . .

That said, there are also good reasons to think the amendment might fail, allowing gay marriage to continue.

Since that 2000 vote, sentiment in California has clearly shifted in favor of gay rights (it's also shifted nationwide to a greater or lesser extent depending on the state). Polls conducted in the past few years typically have shown that half or slightly less than half of Californians favor gay marriage. However, no one to my knowledge has conducted a poll this year on the topic.

The campaign against the amendment will also have bipartisan support. Most Democratic officeholders favor gay marriage, which is why the legislature twice sent Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger bills to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Schwarzenegger vetoed those bills (saying he was deferring to the court), but he has also pledged to oppose the constitutional ban, deeming it a "total waste of time." . . .

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