Same-sex marriage defense on red alert

by Roger Brigham
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 7, 2008

With same-sex marriage defenders in California being being massively outspent by the Mormon Church and the religious right, feeling the sting of TV ads portraying the issue as the work of meddlesome politicians, seeing money syphoned out of the state to support the Democratic Party, and falling behind in the most recent polls, No On Prop 8 senior strategist Steve Smith was blunt when asked what the current Homeland Security Alert rating would be for the survival of marriage equality in the November election. "To hell with orange -- we're going straight to red," Smith said.

Earlier polls had shown Proposition 8, which would eradicate the right for same-sex couples to marry in California, trailing by about 5 percentage points. This week, a Lake Research poll paid for by the campaign of 1,051 likely voters showed the proposition winning, with 47 percent saying they supported the measure and 43 percent saying no. The polling period was Sept. 29-Oct. 2. That finding is reinforced by a SurveyUSA poll of 670 likely voters showing the proposition winning 47 percent to 42 percent. That poll was taken Saturday and Sunday.

Survey USA said its poll indicated support in the Inland Empire and Central Valley areas of California for denying same-sex marriage rights, opposition in the Bay Area, and a split in Southern California.

No On 8 representatives attributed the swing to complacency in the queer and queer-friendly communities and the unexpectedly massive amounts of money being raised by proposition supporters, particularly the Church of Latter Day Saints, to pay for a barrage of television ads that are swaying young voters.

"I think young people are particularly moved by the volume" of television advertising, Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said. "I think that trend more than any other trend points to the problem."

In addition to increasing fund-raising efforts, the campaign added Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Gill Fund and former head of Log Cabin Republicans, as campaign director two weeks ago.

"I think he brings a great wealth of campaign experience and familiarity with donors and activists throughout the copuntry, said Geoff Kors, Equality California executive director and a member of the No On 8 Executive Committee. "It also sends a message that this campaign has national implications; i'ts not just about California.

Smith said the campaign to defeat Prop 8 had succeeded in its goal of getting on television first to help "frame" the issue as an equality issue, but had not anticipated the amount of money being raised to support the bill.

"We're currently being very badly outspent," Smith said. "Their ad is really breaking through -- it's reaching across the spectrum and having major penetration.

"Our community is very complacent and assumes we're going to win."

That's only if Prop 8 supporters aren't able to swing voters. And whose face are they using in their ads? San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose decision to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in 2004 triggered this year's Supreme Court affirmation of same-sex marriage rights and the current battle to eliminate them.

"Our community is very complacent and assumes we’re going to win."

In the Yes on 8 ads, Newsom is shown greeting supporters after the court victory, saying gay marriage is here to stay, "whether you like it or not."

And nothing triggers right-wing ire like being told by the government to do something -- even if that something is merely acknowledging the government does not have the right to deny a basic civil right.

"Our ads are testing as effective," Smith said. "I can tell you they moved people last week. The problem is they have a much bigger buy. We just got out-messaged. Their ad is effective because it shows people being pissed off at government. We need to deliver our own messages."

Asked what messages would be delivered in future ads, Smith said, "I'm not prepared to discuss what we're going to put in ads before we do it. I won't do that."

But clearly, debunking lies will be part of the campaign. On Monday, the Sacramento Bee analyzed the invalidity of some of the comments made in the Yes on 8 ad. In the ad, Pepperdine University law professor Richard Peterson says allowing the law to stand as is means that people can be "sued over personal beliefs, churches could lose their tax exemptions, gay marriage taught in public schools." The Bee points out that other current laws already prohibit discrimination based on such things as gender, religion or orientation; the ruling said protected churches by saying "no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples;" and law prohibits public schools from teaching health and family issues with parental approval.

"We are not matching them dollar for dollar," Smith said "The problem is not in terms of how much we've been raising. We've raised more than we ever have for one of these issues. Their side had raised a lot more from than we expected."

Smith said the No On 8 campaign had spent around $14-15 million so far. About 90 percent of the donors are from California, Smith said, but only 60 to 70 percent of the money is from within the state.

Smith said opposition to the proposition was being killed by pro-Prop TV spending.

"Their buys are more significant and it's because of the Mormon Church," he said. "We had budgeted to spend $20-$22 million. In fact, we're going to spend more than that. The problem is at this point they're going to spend $26 million or so."

"It's going to take everyone to step up to a level they never have before," Kors said. "We have TV ads scripted. We have messages we know that work; they call out the lies they are telling."

"The electorate is still moveable," Lake said. "There are about 20 percent of voters who are either undecided or are moving back and forth on this issue."

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.


  • , 2008-10-07 21:18:55

    This is great news! It gives me hope for our country. Thanks for publishing it..BTW, you excised the most important part of the Church’s name -- it’s "The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints.".Peace.

  • , 2008-10-11 00:04:19

    It’s Pathetic. Marriage is not a monopoly of the church. Marriage is a civil contract. California passed landmark civil rights legislation on May 15 08 with the gay marriage/equal rights ruling. This is not "great news." It is pathetic news that bigots and haters use the church to break apart gay families. Yes, we have families. We pay taxes. We take care of you straight people and we are part of America as much as anyone else. I’d be ashamed of my church if I were you.

  • , 2008-10-13 12:59:12

    California did not pass "landmark civil rights legislation on May 15 08"... California voters passed a law years ago to ban exactly that, and judges simply overruled the will of the people. California is fairly left leaning, and would likely have passed a law to allow same-sex marriage, but the proponents of same-sex marriage decided to just force it on Californians whether they like it or not - whether it be Gavin unilaterally illegally allowing it, or judges ignoring the votes of the people. The people in favor of same-sex marriage seriously overplayed their hand... They should have just waited a bit longer and same-sex marriage would have certainly been legalized, but now they are going to be severely punished it seems for their gestapo tactics. Assuming prop 8 passes, you’ll likely not see same-sex marriage in California in your lifetime. Good going same-sex marriage proponents, next time wait until the people are on your side... the wind was blowing your way but you just couldn’t wait could you?

  • CC, 2008-10-13 21:48:58

    So you are saying that if bigots pass a law that says blacks/latinos are to be slaves then its o.k. to have slavery in this country?? It was passed by our house and senate but Swartzenager vetoed the law, each of two years that it was passed. I want to know how my getting married to my partner of 20 years hurts your marriage. It is bigot reasoning. "I hate gays and if they can get married then they are EQUAL to me therefore you can’t marry because you are not equal to me." I grew up in the south and the same reasoning tried to stop blacks from equality.

  • , 2008-10-28 13:45:06

    This indeed is a human rights issue. I both amazed and appauled that this is even an issue. When do we as a state or country move from the point where we recognize a group, give them partial legal standing, allow them to adopt childern, pay taxes, etc., etc. but cut them short when it comes time for fair and equal treatment. This mentality has no educated defense. That in itself probably explains that blantent lies that have been used to try and pass such a rediculous law. Almost but not good enough, what kind of country do we live in?

  • , 2008-10-28 13:54:14

    I was raised LDS--did a mission and the whole bit. Thomas S. Monson came off as an elitest then. I left the LDS faith for a reason, and I don’t want Monson imposing himself on my life now. I encourage everyone to look up the 11th Article of Faith of the LDS Church. You will find words that once had meaning, but are now pretty words to make Salt Lake appear ecumenical. My mother has been very accepting and gay friendly. BUT she is supporting Prop.8. The liberties sought by my pioneer ancestors have been forgotten by the new face of the LDS Faith. I guess the torture the Mormons went through during the 1800’s in Missouri wasn’t enough. Others felt entirely justified in doing heinous act against Mormon’s. At one time folks who hated Mormons called barbedwire, Mormon Wire. My mother asked me to come home for Thanksgiving. I told her that I would indeed be coming home. I will be coming home to my own house. On my mother’s wall is a proclomation from LDS leaders, specifying gender roles. Fortunately or unfortunately I have severed contact with my mother. I will not walk into a home--a home that represents home to me--bearing statements that I am a second-class citizen. Growing up as a "good Mormons" we sang a song that went: Hail to the prophet... don’t go astray. Let’s revise the song: Hell to the prophet, hatred is his way!

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