Proposition 8 supporters created a TV ad featuring the words of San Francisco Mayor and gay-marriage supporter Gavin Newsom. He has called the spot "absurd."Watch pro-8 ad
In June, same-sex couples in California became eligible to legally marry, courtesy of a state Supreme Court ruling that reversed an earlier ban. In the months since, more than 11,000 gay couples have tied the knot.
A California ballot initiative could make same-sex marriage illegal yet again; Proposition 8 asks voters to amend the state constitution so that marriage is defined solely as a union between one man and one woman.
After trailing in the polls, the measure is now surging, partly due to support from beyond the state's borders.
"Prop. 8 could have profound effects nationwide," says professor John Matsusaka, who heads a University of Southern California institute that studies ballot initiatives. "California is a trendsetter. If you look at the things that have come through the ballot proposition process through the past 30 years — tax limits, term limits, medical marijuana — there's been a host of issues that started in California and other states adopted once they started going forward."
Supporters and opponents of the bill know this well, and thus far, about $48 million has poured in from people on both sides. Californians can't turn on network TV or local radio these days without being bombarded with pro- and anti-Proposition 8 ads. Web sites like Facebook and YouTube have scores of homemade efforts as well; there are passionate pleas to the sanctity of the nuclear family, videos designed to show that same-sex couples are just like you and, of course, rants.
A Call To 'Protect Marriage'
Backers and opponents of Proposition 8 are watching it all very closely.
"Everyone has his eye on this race, it's the second biggest race in this country," says Sonja Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman for Protect Marriage, a group that's working to make sure the initiative succeeds — and that "marriage" is reserved for the union of one man and one woman.
This issue marks a "cultural crossroads," she says. "Even this week, in Iowa, the Supreme Court there is taking a look at same-sex marriage. So I think it affects everyone, because it affects every home and every family."
Organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Knights of Columbus and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints think so too; they have all actively supported the push to get Proposition 8 passed. Mormon financial support alone is said to account for roughly 35 percent of total financial contributions in favor of the initiative thus far.
A Human Rights Plea
The "No on 8" campaign has an interfaith coalition of its own, along with a similarly long list of backers, including Hollywood A-listers Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand.
"This is probably the most important civil rights battle in the history of our movement, because it is the first time one of these anti-gay ballot measures is working to actually eliminate a civil right we have achieved," says Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, who just married her longtime partner last week.
USC's Matsusaka says whether Proposition 8 passes or fails may depend on the undecided voter:
"I think you have a bunch of people in the middle who are going to swing this election who aren't passionately committed to it, but don't see a reason to be concerned about it either."