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    May 11, 2008

    Coming soon, the mother of all battles

    Posted by: Andoni

    UPDATE: Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, notes that the California ballot measure is actually sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and its California arm.


    “I think there is a good chance we are about to face what could well be the single most important battle we have ever seen in the LGBT rights movement.”

    That’s how Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU LGBT Project describes the epic battle we will face should the California Supreme Court decide in our favor on the same sex marriage case later this month. This major conflict will result from the confluence of two events:

    1. The California Supreme Court strikes down state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
    2. Almost simultaneously, voters will weigh in on a ballot initiative sponsored by VoteYesMarriage.com to amend the state's constitution to outlaw same sex marriage -- undoing the Supreme Court decision.

    Many astute observers think there is a very good chance the court will approve gay marriage. Matt was initially concerned about our chances, but after hearing the oral arguments and weighing the justices’ reactions, Matt is now cautiously optimistic. You can listen to the oral arguments  and decide for yourself if there is a good chance we’ll win.

    It appears that VoteYesMarriage.com has collected enough signatures to place on the November ballot the amendment to negate the court’s decision, but we won’t know for sure until June, after the signatures have been authenticated.

    A victory for gay marriage in the California Supreme Court would be an earth-shaking event because:

    1. The California Supreme Court is one of the most respected in the country. The New York Times recently ran a story saying it is easily the most influential state court in the country. If we win in California, things will be quite favorable for us in other states going forward on this issue. The California Supreme Court was most instrumental in ending this nation's anti-miscegenation laws by ruling them unconstitutional in 1948 and the rest of the nation soon followed. Let's hope a same sex marriage ruling follows a similar trajectory.
    2. California alone represents the 8th largest economy in the world and over 12% of the U.S. population. In short, what happens in California has tremendous influence economically, politically, socially and culturally. California has a long history of starting new ideas in the United States.

    Our opponents know all this, so it will be a do-or-die situation for them. They will want to punish the court if they rule our way to send a message to other state courts not to do the same. If they lose the ballot initiative in California, they know the same sex marriage war is all but over.

    Our side knows that if we sustain a court victory by the people in a ballot initiative, it will be a short time before gay rights victories spread across the country. So in a sense, the California battle will as crucial as the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Both sides will throw everything they have at it because they know that the ultimate outcome of the gay rights war will turn on this battle.

    Matt told me he sees the California battle this way:

    If we win the case and the initiative qualifies, we’ll be in the largest, most expensive, highest stakes political fight we’ve ever seen or are ever likely to see.  Our opponents will understand that if they lose, and the voters in effect ratify the court’s decision, their fight against marriage in America will ultimately be unwinnable. They’ll put everything they have into the election.

    So get ready for World War-like battle for gay rights that we have no choice but to fight as if our lives depended on it. Certainly our future does. It will involve the LGBT community throughout the nation. We can argue about whether marriage was the right issue at the right time. But we’re here now, and we have no choice but to fight as hard as we can. This isn’t just about marriage -- it's about ending legal discrimination against gay people on any issue you can think of.

    Matt sums it up:

    The prospect of a ballot initiative is scary. But we have no choice but to face it. And in facing it, we should keep one thing in mind. A win at the California Supreme Court, confirmed by the voters, followed up with a smart strategy building on the wins and persuading the public, would put in our grasp an end to legal discrimination (against gays) in less than a generation.



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    1. Mother of All Marriage Battles from The Bilerico Project on May 15, 2008 7:30:39 AM

      "The prospect of a ballot initiative is scary. But we have no choice but to face it. And in facing it, we should keep one thing in mind. A win at the California Supreme Court, confirmed by the voters, followed up with a smart strategy building on the w... [Read More]


    1. Tim in Newark on May 12, 2008 5:53:29 PM:

      New Jersey is expected to introduce legislation in the fall to convert our civil unions into marriage. The governor has said he'd sign it but not until after the 2008 elections because he didn't want to affect the democrat's chances.

      Of course we must still fight the fight in CA also.

    1. The Gay Species on May 12, 2008 7:18:24 PM:

      Apparently you missed the Court's inquisition of the obvious. Do details skirt your attention? The Court feared that an affirmation of marriage equality, established by the Court, would only cause the FUNDIES to run to the referendum process, and overrule the court. Fear not. The FUNDIES have already done so. The ANTI-EQUALITY marriage is on for November.

      Poor Rabbi (FISTR) Leno seems not to quite understand California's politics. Unfortunately, his naivete is the reason for the anti-gay referendum. Having thrice persuaded Democrats to end-run direct democracy's plebiscite, each time thankfully vetoed by Arnold, the FUNDIE fears assumed they had better preempt both the Rabbi and the Democrats, AND THEY HAVE. How f**ckn stupid can one rabbinical dropout be? Well, that answers itself.

      For non-native Californians, the plebiscite (no, it's a Greek concept of democracy, neither of which is in the Bible) rules in California. That's because California is a "democratic republic." Not Israel. Not New York. But California.

      Plebiscites cut both ways. For GLBT, the most significant plebiscite with the 1978 Briggs Initiative, Proposition 6. In that Right-Wing Anita Bryant "Bar Homosexual Teachers in California Schools," the measure was predicted to win in a landslide, carrying even San Francisco County. A week after former governor Reagan urged "NO," it was defeated in a landslide -- the largest shift in public sentiment ever recorded by the Field Poll. In less than one week. I wish WE could claim the victory, but as Mark Shields of the Washington Post reminds the Queer Revisionists, it was ALL Ronald Reagan. ALL. (It helped BIGTIME that the Gay Freedom Day Parade EXCLUDED Nambla, otherwise I seriously doubt Reagan would have opposed the initiative.)

      This crucible in GLBT politics has been swept under the Hate Reagan Rug, not the least by Supervisor Harvey Milk, Mayor George Moscone, and Supervisor Anita Ruth Silver. Unfortunately, Moscone and Milk were assassinated two weeks later, before they could repent their Trotskyite arrogance, and humbly admit the obvious. Nonetheless, most GAYS and LESBIANS, even at the "victory" party assumed to be a "consolation weep-in" remember details like this. Had the initiative won, as predicted, the Religious Right had numerous follow-up initiatives in the hopper. So hate Reagan all one wants, but at the crucible in all gay liberation, he made all the difference.

      Unfortunately, San Francisco's rabbinical dropout has failed to study California's political mechanisms -- to busy doing his Power Exchange thing to do serious politics. But his idiocy with trying to end-run the 2000 plebiscite -- not once, not twice, but THRICE -- compelled the Homobigots to preempt the Rabbinical dropout for co-opting the will of the people. This time, we don't have a Ronald Reagan to help us. This time, the sole reason for the ANTI-GAY measure is because (1) fears the rabbi would endear the governor's signature -- despite an inevitable loss in the California Supreme Court, AND (2) while public sentiment has grown increasingly in favor of marriage equality, a prudent tactician would DO what the FUNDIES are doing, rather than try to end-run the 2000 plebiscite. WE BEG Equality California (the Rabbi will not listen to anyone) to back off, and when the voter sentiment is in our favor, then WE should prevail with the same plebiscite process the Rabbi is trying to end-run.

      So, don't blame the messenger, but PRAY the Supreme Court, as several justices made clear, DENIES the petition, OR as the justices made clear, OPPONENTS might overrule the Court with a plebiscite. FEAR no more. OPPONENTS have qualified their initiative in anticipation either/way, ON THEIR TERMS, and with the huge demographic changes in their FAVOR, they believe they can nail the Rabbi's coffin shut. Who will defend marriage equality in that referendum? Watch the cowards scatter -- especially in Southern and Central California.

      Send your best wishes to Rabbi Mark Leno, "FISTR" locally, and see if he knows what you think is so great. Are people really this stupid? The "Lost Generation" must leave newbies on suicide pacts. Oh, and maybe attention to DETAILS is our mutual best interest.

    1. Lucrece on May 12, 2008 8:54:38 PM:

      I smell LCR inefficacy creeping into the comments section ;).

    1. Pomo on May 13, 2008 12:41:18 AM:

      Living in CA this all makes me so nervous. And Upset. I plan on spending part of my summer working for Equity For All


      They're an organization seeking to fight the amendment. I don't know what i'll do working in their field office bu t I feel like i've got to do something!

    1. Strict Scrutiny on May 13, 2008 1:57:57 AM:

      I've been following this case since our Supreme Court granted cert to hear the case. I watched oral arguments on television and have read the briefs submitted by the parties in the case. That said, here's my take ...

      First, I would not get my hopes up just yet. During oral arguments the justices appeared rather neutral; I didn't get a sense that they favored or disfavored same-sex marriage. I'm not sure why Matt Coles is optimistic. A couple of the justices may have seemed somewhat sympathetic to the petitioners (gay couples), but we need a 4 person majority to win. The court may well find in favor of the petitioners, but there were no obvious signs of that during oral arguments. Plus, even if the petitioners do prevail, Calfornians will vote on a marriage discrimination amendment to the California Constitution, which will effectively decide the issue if it passes.

      Now, regarding the outcome of the case, I anticipate 3 possibilities. The justices: 1) Approve same-sex marriage, 2) continue to disallow same-sex marriage, or 3) approve same-sex marriage but stay the decision pending the results of the November 2008 election.

      From a tactical point of view, I would favor option 1. If the Supreme Court strikes down the current laws which prohibit same-sex marriage, then gay folks could immediately get married. If that happened, marriages contracted between say June 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 would probably remain valid. If a constitutional amendment came into effect after same-sex marriages had become legal, it would probably not invalidate the marriages which were legally contracted. Therefore, we'd have a situation where thousands of couples could get hitched before marriage rights are cut off again.

      Now, on the subject of the Discrimination Amendment, there are a few bright spots. First, we don't know for sure if the crazies got all the signatures they needed. They submitted the paperwork to the Secretary of State, but the signatures have to be counted and validated and authenticated and whatnot, so, we don't know for sure if they really do have enough signatures. Second, and more importantly, Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger opposes this amendment and has stated he will campaign against it -- kudos to the governor! And third, attitudes in CA are changing. If same-sex couples get immediate relief, and get married, I think many non-ideologue Californians will have a change of heart. They will see: 1) how this does not negatively affect the institution of marriage, 2) how it's not the end of the civilized world, and 3) how happy these couples genuinely are. IF these non-ideologues have a change of heart, the amendment might not pass.

      So, to sum up, I'm not sure how the justices will decide this case, but if they immediately strike down same-sex marriage restrictions, it could end up being a great boon to same-sex couples here in the golden state.

    1. Tim on May 13, 2008 10:40:53 AM:

      Thank god we have the democratic party really standing behind us on this one and doing their best with funding and positive inclusive ad campaign to help show their constituents that they matter as people not just as voters and donors.

      Right Guys!



    1. Strict Scrutiny on May 13, 2008 1:19:57 PM:

      Tim, your comment simply illustrates how little you know. Gay people in California enjoy some of the broadest, most progressive rights and protections in the United States. This is due largely to the Democrat-controlled state legislature.

      Please recall, for instance, that our legislature was the first in the country to pass gay marriage legislation without being forced to do so by a court. Not once, but twice.

      So please save your sarcasm and derision and dopey comments for someone else. The California Democratic Party has one of the best progressive, pro-gay records in the country.

    1. The Gay Species on May 14, 2008 6:10:26 PM:

      Strict Scrutiny,

      My scrutiny fails to understand your "reasoning." Assume, for example, the Court does the RIGHT thing (not the TACTICALLY smart thing) are requires marriage equality. This decision, as the justices themselves made clear, appears to invalidate the 2000 plebiscite, and nothing angers voters more than Courts overturning plebiscites. Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other justices were RECALLED because they did so in 1980. Democrats with any memory are chastened, lest their other efforts to legislatively invalidate other referenda only cause outrage (queers are not the only "rage" abled.)

      A Poll in 2005 indicated marriage equality stood a 50:50 chance, with 10% undecided. That shift is immensely gratifying since the 2000 poll. By 2010, GLBT could propose our OWN referendum, asking voters to confirm marriage equality, not force it by court edict (overturned by referendum) like MA which is its own problems.

      Based on your reasoning, though, YOU GET married, but no one after 2008 does (assuming the fall referendum passes, which I still think probable, especially in reaction to a court decision). And thereafter the doors are sealed for subsequent couples. But YOU GOT in, and that's all that counts? Maybe Rosie O'Donnell and a couple hundred others?

      Such short-sightedness, self-absorbed, ME-only-ness, is not particularly FAIR to others, but as long as YOU get it, screw all the others? Perhaps your tactics explain why forty years INTO the Homophile Renaissance, self-interest has left equality for all still a DREAM. We cannot even amend the Civil Rights Act for inclusion, because of such short-sighted "me-first" tactics.

      I bet you support Hilary and her "gas moritorium" too. Even a hedonist, like myself, knows deferred gratification has greater rewards than the hedonic treadmill. Those who don't, seem to take whatever they can get and f*ck all others. Perhaps you might consult Plato's critique of democracy in the Republic, YOU FIT IT.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on May 15, 2008 2:05:45 AM:

      Dear Gay Species-

      My scrutiny fails to understand your "reasoning."

      Yeah, well, that's on you.

      I bet you support Hilary and her "gas moritorium" too.

      Actually, I have supported Barack Obama during the entire primary season. If you'd taken your head out of your ass for 2 seconds to see any of my previous posts you'd have known that. But don't let lack of facts or information keep you from making a fool of yourself.

      Regarding your other points, let's see, so many things. First, I don't care about greek democracy, Plato's critique of anything, Homophile Renaissance, or any of the other b.s. you've mentioned.

      Second, I don't believe plebiscites and voter initiatives should ever, EVER determine civil rights. If it were up to "the people" in Alambama, we'd still have segregation in that state. Luckily, we had learned men and women in the federal congress who realized there was a huge racism problem in the south and passed federal legislation to help fight it. Every law or ruling that has ever expanded civil rights for minority groups has come from a legislature or a court, not the masses. Frankly, I wish California would abolish its citizen initiative process because those initiatives often reflect some f-cked up prejudice. For instance, the Briggs initiative you mentioned above. So yeah, I could care less what voters of California think about same-sex marriage.

      Third, the outcome I desire is rational. The discrimination amendment is not going to lose support or fail simply because we lose the court ruling. It has strong support from the crazies and could well pass either way.

      On the other hand, if the crazies lose and gay folks start getting married, I think the regular, non-ideologue folks will see that same-sex marriage doesn't hurt anyone and they will be less likely to vote in favor of the discrimination amendment. But even if it does pass, letting some people get married now is better than not letting anyone get married ever.

      And, by the way, you presumptuous dipstick, I don't plan to get married. However, I know plenty of people who would like to get married and I would really like to see them be happy. So no, I'm not getting a benefit from a favorable ruling. So take your "me-only, I'm selfish" presumptions and take a hike.

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