After TV Ad, Pendulum Swings Back to Support Anti-Gay CA Amendment

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 7, 2008

The fate of gay and lesbian families in California may hinge on a few ill-considered words uttered by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome, suggests a new poll showing resurgent support for an anti-gay ballot initiative in that state.

As reported in an Oct. 6 news report published by San Francisco CBS television affiliate KPIX a commercial aired by proponents of the anti-gay family Proposition 8, which would amend the California constitution and revoke the right of gays and lesbians to marry, shows Newsome saying that marriage equality in Calif. is now a fact, "whether you like it or not."

Those six words seem to have rubbed voters the wrong way, a new poll shows: before the ad aired, a majority of those polled said they would not vote for the measure, and, as reported at EDGE, young voters were leading the trend toward supporting marriage equality in the face of the challenge represented by the ballot initiative.

But the new poll shows that in the wake of the ad showing Newsome saying those words, support for the anti-family ban has picked up--among those very same young voters, who are viewed as the most easily swayed and most volatile demographic.

The poll was conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the CBS affiliate, and shows a five-point increase in support for the amendment over the course of an 11-day period.

A previous poll had showed a five-point lead for those opposing the rollback on gay and lesbian family rights, the report said.

The new poll showed 47 percent of likely voters saying that they would probably vote for the amendment, with 42 percent against the reversal of marriage equality for gay and lesbian families.

Outside of young voters, other demographics remained essentially the same in their rates of supporting, or not supporting, the protection of marriage equality.

Social and religious conservatives continued to oppose marriage equality and indicate support for the amendment; more liberal voters continued to express support for gay and lesbian family equality and oppose the amendment.

The KPIX article said that the margin of error, 3.6 percent, is great enough that the overall result--the breakdown of numbers for and against Proposition 8--remains too close to predict.

Also, SurveyUSA noted in its report, "Polling on ballot measures in general is an inexact science, and polling on homosexuality in general is a tricky business."

Continued the summary, "So, not too much should be made of the 5 points that separates 'Yes' and 'No' today."

An October 7 Associated Press story reported that marriage license applications in Calif., which had been altered to ask for the names of "Party A" and "Party B," will be changed back to the way they used to be, asking for the name of the "bride" and of the "groom."

The change was the result of applicants wishing to be able to fill out the forms in the time-honored way, with one person identified as a "groom" and the other as a "bride," the AP story said.

The new forms will go into effect Nov. 17, and feature a check-box option labeled "bride" and "groom" along with a space for "First Person Data" and "Second Person Data."

If the anti-family amendment does pass, those forms may need another round of revisions, because approval from Calif. voters of Proposition 8 would curtail the ability of gay and lesbian families to enter into marriage at all, rewriting the state's constitution in a way that restricts marriage as a special right exclusive to heterosexuals.

The battle over marriage equality in Calif. is seen by proponents and opponents alike as having national impact. Calif. is the second state to extend marriage equality, following Massachusetts, which legalized marriage for gays and lesbians in 2004.

But Calif. is a more populous and, some say, influential state. If marriage equality survives the ballot initiative, other states may follow the lead of the two states that have made marriage a universal right for all families.

But if voters approve the revocation of the right of some families to marry, based on sexual orientation, that could lead to still more states clamping down on gay and lesbian families--possibly even a renewed assault on marriage equality in Mass., where, last summer, state lawmakers shut down an attempt to put a similar amendment to the Mass. constitution on this year's ballot.

Huge amounts of money are flowing into Calif. from across the nation, as reported at EDGE and by the Associated Press.

An AP article published Oct. 7 reported that more than $41 million has been spent so far on the battle to convince undecided voters to take one side or the other in the marriage equality issue come election day.

Marriage equality opponents have raked in $25.4 million, the article said, compared with the $15.8 million received by those wishing to preserve gay and lesbian family rights.

With another month between now and election day, that enormous sum already outstrips the grand total that had previously been spent in all the states where constitutional amendments against marriage for gay and lesbian families have gone to voters in the years 2004-2006.

Of 27 states that have amended their constitutions to exclude gays and lesbians from marriage rights, only one, Ariz., has seen such an initiative defeated at the ballot box. The reason, it is believed, is that the 2006 measure took aim not only at marriage for same-sex couples, but also at domestic partnerships for all unmarried couples, regardless of gender.

That would have deprived unmarried heterosexuals who relied on domestic partnership benefits as well as on pensions inherited from deceased spouses.

A new version of the anti-gay amendment is now scheduled to go before Ariz. voters in Nov., targeting only gay families and not putting domestic partnerships on the block.

The huge sums of money involved in the Calif. battle reflect the need felt by both sides to court voters via television. New ads by both sides are expected to begin airing this week.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.