Prop. 8 leaves some voters puzzled

Garrison is a Times staff writer.

Speaking out recently against Proposition 8, the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown made an appeal for the importance of protecting the rights of same-sex couples. And then he urged his audience to vote yes on the proposition.

Brown misspoke. He intended to advocate a no vote. But he isn’t alone in confusing which side is which. As election day nears, both supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 worry that voters will be confused by a choice that can seem counterintuitive: Voting no on the initiative means voting yes on gay marriage, while voting yes means gay marriage would be disallowed.

“There is confusion on both sides over yes meaning no and no meaning yes,” said West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, who is helping campaign for No on 8. He added, jokingly, that he has heard supporters of the proposition say, “I’m opposed to gay marriage, so I’m voting no, and I’m like, ‘Yes, vote no.’ ”


In recent days, both campaigns have taken steps to educate their faithful to make sure they vote the right way.

“We changed our advertising to make sure people understood what a yes means and what a no means,” said Jeff Flint, strategist for the yes side. “We were getting a lot of people who were saying, ‘I’m against gay marriage, so I’m voting no.’ ”

Opponents have undertaken a similar effort.

Both sides are urging volunteers to make sure the people to whom they reach out understand which way to mark the ballot.

In general, political experts say, the “no” side on ballot measures has a slight advantage because many voters instinctively chafe at the idea of new laws and their default instinct is to oppose them.

As the race over the most hotly contested social issue in the nation heads into the final stretch, both sides also ramped up their campaigns in recent days, with bus tours, rallies and volunteer efforts to get out the vote, along with fundraising pleas, e-mail blasts and an explosion of advertising. And, of course, accusations of malfeasance on both sides.

The no side this week began airing an ad from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the state’s most popular politicians, in which she says it “would be a terrible mistake for California. . . . No matter how you feel about marriage, vote against discrimination.”


Then, on Thursday, a group of Silicon Valley heavyweights, including founders and executives at Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Adobe and other companies, announced they were taking out a full-page ad in the San Jose Mercury News urging people to vote no.

The campaign also continued to release a flurry of e-mail blasts, including an announcement that a group of pediatricians was voting no and that women politicians were holding a candlelight vigil in East L.A. to oppose the measure.

Officials on the yes side, meanwhile, said they expected more than 50,000 volunteers to work to get out the vote from now until election day.

Supporters of the measure have also been gathering on street corners with signs urging people to vote yes.