The fight to repeal Proposition 8 — which overturned same-sex marriage rights in California in November 2008 — isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
But exactly when to place another ballot measure before voters has become almost as much of a hot potato as the question itself.
The argument rages on among GLBT leaders who passionately agree that Proposition 8 must be overturned at the ballot box. Should it coincide with the November 2010 gubernatorial election, or go to the polls with the 2012 presidential contest?
Will the campaign benefit from more time and money, or will supporters be able to use the still-raw sting of last year’s defeat to propel them to victory?
The numbers are tantalizing: Proposition 8 won by 2 percentage points.
That’s close enough that the outcome could be affected simply by getting more same-sex marriage supporters to register and vote, says Laguna Beach political maven Fred Karger.
There are good arguments on both sides of the timing issue, and it appears voters just might have the opportunity to vote on it in 2010. That is, if enough signatures can be gathered between now and April. But that’s a big if.
If that were to happen, it would be the first time unpaid volunteer signature-gatherers had ever accomplished such a feat, Karger said.
Money is the mother’s milk of politics, and much as he would like to, Karger doesn’t see the money coming in to drive the 2010 ballot measure over the threshold.
“It takes $2 million to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot,” Karger said. “We need to be able to hire professional signature-gatherers. It is a necessity.”
But don’t tell that to Laguna Beach activist Audrey Prosser, who is leading the charge to organize volunteers to gather signatures for a 2010 ballot measure.
At a party last weekend at the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club, she says 100 people turned out and six signed up to gather signatures.
That’s not a huge number of volunteers, but it’s a start.
Prosser married her partner during the six-month window of blissful marriage equality between the state Supreme Court decision of June 1 and the Nov. 4 election, which slammed the door on many couples’ wedding dreams.
She led a march of about a thousand-strong through the streets of Laguna Beach to protest Proposition 8, and she is not backing down in keeping the fight alive and kicking.
“Polls in 2008 showed that Californians overwhelmingly supported GLBT marriage,” Prosser said. “We now have an army of grass roots activists and allies as a result of the injustice that was done.
“I don’t think that time buys justice. Justice is never given by the opposition but must be taken. Staying on the sidelines is not a good use of time.”
While the 2012 camp has a lot of reasoned analysis for its “go slow” approach — to be found at www.eqca.org — the 2010 camp has fire in the belly, and that you can’t buy with any amount of money.
Since the California defeat, same-sex marriage opponents have gone on to take away the civil rights of same sex couples in Maine — using the very same TV commercials that persuaded some voters here that same sex marriage would somehow harm children.
Karger has been in the forefront of fighting the National Organization for Marriage — sponsor of those ads.
For his troubles, Karger has been targeted by NOM, which has subpoenaed him in a lawsuit NOM filed against the state, seeking to overturn laws requiring that political donors’ names be made public.
Karger has had to hire his own attorneys to represent him against this well-funded group, which is demanding all of Karger’s e-mails and communications involving his organization, Californians Against Hate.
Karger is convinced this is simply a tactic to silence and harass him.
NOM says they need this information to prove their contention that making known who is behind a ballot measure unfairly exposes donors to retaliation — such as the (successful) boycotts Karger led against several major businesses whose owners contributed large sums to NOM.
In other words, the future of politics is ultimately at stake here; and not just in California.
NOM has also been taken to task for refusing to reveal its major donors in the Maine campaign and is fighting that state’s laws.
This group really doesn’t want the public to know who they are — they want the right to wage political campaigns in secret. This isn’t good for anyone — on any political issue.
But back to the same-sex-marriage front: While Karger isn’t overly optimistic about the 2010 prospects, he is fully behind the effort and believes this is no time to sit back and take stock.
“We have to be more aggressive,” Karger said. “We need to undo the damage done by Proposition 8, and demystify our community.”
How to do that?
“We need to put a face on married gay couples, to show that we are just like you, all we want is to have a nice life.”
The 2010 campaign is being led by a group called Love, Honor, Cherish.
Petitions can be obtained from their sponsored website, www.signforequality.com.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 494-2087 or email@example.com.