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Religious Tolerance logo

Efforts to overturn Prop. 8 in California

2009-JUN to now: Attempting to repeal
Proposition 8 by passing a new proposition.

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Repealing Proposition 8 in order to re-legalize same-sex marriage (SSM):

Starting in mid-2009, some pro-equality and civil rights groups in the state considered initiating a new citizen initiative that would simply repeal Prop. 8. If more than 50% of the voters voted favorably, this would presumably re-validate the 2008-MAY decision of the California Supreme Court. It would restore the availability of SSMs to all loving, committed couples in California, whether they be of opposite-sex or the same-sex.

The next opportunities for a voter decision would occur on Election Day during early 2010-NOV and 2012-NOV. Since the court ruled that support from 50.00% of the voters plus one was sufficient to pass Prop. 8, then the same percentage of voters could implement a new proposition to repeal Prop. 8. If the new initiative were passed, it would more than double the number of Americans living in states where same-sex couples could marry, from about 35 million (11% of the total U.S. population) to 72 million (23% of the total U.S. population.) 6 The stakes are very high.

If the new Proposition were passed, religious and social conservatives, including the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches as major players, would be anxious to restore marriage inequality regardless of cost. They could be expected to try to reinstate Prop 8 at the following election day two years later. The flip-flop sequence would probably continue until one side obtained a truly significant majority, making further effort useless.

The first step was to decide whether to launch a new Proposition in 2010 or 2012.

Arguments in favor of trying to repeal Prop. 8 in 2010:


There was currently considerable enthusiasm among the LGBT community and civil rights proponents to roll back Prop. 8; momentum might partly dissipate if they wait until 2012.


There were few initiatives being voted upon during 2010-NOV. That would have increased available donations to a California marriage equality proposition.


Between 2010 and 2012, the legislature will have been redistricted. This will probably result in 2012 in the most expensive election in over a decade. Money and volunteers might be in short supply.


By 2012-NOV, marriage equity will be in place in six states: Iowa and all but one of the New England states. It also might possibly be legalized in New York and New Jersey. That momentum could carry over into California.


All of the leading Democratic candidates for governor at the 2010 election strongly support an overturn of Prop. 8.


Equality California stated that if the Proposition is delayed until 2012 then:

"... between 2010 and 2012, a number of Californians will forever lose the chance to marry the person they love or witness their son or daughter get married, while others will have to wait in a state of limbo to see if they will be able to marry. We should not wait any longer than we have to." 1

Arguments in favor of a vote in 2012:


It might take three years of effort to change the minds of sufficient voters to repeal Prop. 8.


National trends show a gradually increasing support for SSM. Repeal would be more certain in 2012 than in 2010. Californians who are now teens and who generally strongly support SSM will be able to vote. Older voters who are generally strongly opposed to SSM will, as Equity California states: "will no longer be in the voting pool." i.e. they will have died. 1


It will take a lot of money to wage a successful campaign. Funding for and against Prop. 8 involved a total of $80 million. With California being the center of the current recession, this amount might be difficult to raise for a 2010 campaign. More money would be available in 2012 when the economy is predicted to have improved. 2

Reactions to the proposed new proposition:

Brian S. Brown, executive director in National Organization for Marriage, -- a group opposed to marriage equality -- said: "The fact is that the people of California have already spoken. And they don't like being told they were wrong the first time."

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and executive member of the "No on 8" campaign said: "Usually we measure social change on controversial issues on, at a minimum, years, and more often, generations. On this issue, we're measuring it by days." 3

It would seem that polling data shows that both Brown and Kendall are mistaken:

  • Brown is not accounting for the rate of change of support for SSM in California and in the rest of the nation. The "people of California" are not the same people in 2010 or 2012 as they were in 2008 when Proposition 8 was passed by 52% of the population. Older teenagers, who strongly support SSM, have become young adults; some of the elderly, who generally oppose SSM strongly, have withdrawn from the voting pool through disability or death.

  • Kendell seems over-optomistic about the same rate of change; noticeable increases in support do not happen in a matter of days. It takes years and decades for significant change to occur. In reality, support for SSM has been rising across the nation by about 1.7 percentage points per year. That may not seem like much, but over the 22 years from 1988 to 2010, support rose from 12% to 50%. Support in California rose from 32% in 1995 to 50% in 2009, a rate of 1.3 percentage points a year.

Equality California held a membership survey to assess support for each of these dates. Thousands responded:


69% voted to sponsore a proposition on 2010-NOV.


24% preferred 2012;


7% were uncertain.

The group originally decided to try for a 2010 vote, with the expectation that the vote would be very close. They attempted to raise $500,000 during the 100 days between 2009-MAY-24 and AUG-23 to hire 25 grassroots organizers. As of JUN-22, they had raised about 25% of their goal. They eventually decided that a repeal attempt in 2012 would be a better goal.

Some of their consultants suggested that they should only initiate a proposition if there was at least a 10% differential between support and opposition, as in 55% favorable and 45% opposed. This size of margin is probably needed because the groups opposed to SSM would probably wage the same type of well financed, fear-based advertising campaign that has proven effective at swaying opinion temporarily against SSM in the past.

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Original plan for a proposition in 2012:

On 2009-AUG-12, Equality California (EQCA) released a report titled: "Winning Back Marriage Equality in California: Analysis and Plan." 4 Marc Solomon, EQCA marriage director, said:

"Equality California is fiercely determined to win marriage back in 2012 with an aggressive campaign to change the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of California voters, hand-in-hand with our coalition partners, grassroots activists, allies and volunteers. For us, waiting has never been a possibility. We've already talked to thousands of voters across the state. The real issue has been whether it will take 15 months or 39 months to change enough hearts and minds so that future generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians never have to fight again at the ballot box for their basic humanity." 5

Andrea Shorter, EQCA's deputy marriage and coalitions director, said:

"We look forward to growing our partnerships with Latino, African-American, API and faith community leaders who have been advancing equality for LGBT people in their respective communities for years. We we must continue to share our stories with our neighbors, family and friends. We know that with our absolute dedication and unity, same-sex couples will once again enjoy equality under the law." 5

They estimate that their campaign will cost about $40 to $50 million dollars -- about as much as was raised to battle the Prop. 8 campaign. 5 The Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the LDS, Mormons) and some evangelical groups can be expected to raise a similar amount to defeat the proposition and retain Prop. 8 in force.

Equality California recommended in their report:

"... that the LGBT and allied community get behind a 38-month campaign to win marriage back in November, 2012. In a 38-month campaign, we will be able to:
  • Build a powerful, community-based grassroots field structure.
  • Do the real, in-depth work in the people of color communities that must happen and support those organizations that will lead that work.
  • Implement strategies to help lessen the effectiveness of our opponents’ misleading attacks.
  • Pilot ideas that appear, based on testing, that they will work and see if they actually do.
  • Lay the groundwork for the fundraising that will be required to win a 2012 ballot campaign.
  • Work through some of the organizational challenges, and develop a structure that wins the confidence of donors, established organizations, the grassroots and allied organizations alike.
  • Do the real, in-depth, locally-focused work to maximize the numbers of voters who have gotten to know a same-sex married couple/family in their own community. 4

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Equality California cancels plan for a 2012 proposition:

On 2011-OCT-05, Equality California issued a news release stating that it was dropping its plans for a 2012-NOV plebiscite. It said, in part:

"... while public opinion on marriage for same-sex couples has increased since Proposition 8 passed in 2008, support continues to hover near 50 percent -- indicating more work must be done before asking voters to overturn Proposition 8 through what would inevitably be  a very expensive and difficult campaign. In addition, the Perry v. Brown legal challenge to Proposition 8 has provided hope that the freedom to marry can be restored in California and create a legal precedent to protect marriage without the potential risks and expense of a multi-million dollar campaign in these very trying economic times." 

" 'With a challenge to Prop 8’s discrimination now before the courts, Freedom to Marry supports Equality California’s decision to forego a ballot campaign in 2012,' said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry. 'Freedom to Marry will continue to work with Equality California and our many other partners to engage Californians in the crucial conversations necessary to grow the pro-marriage majority and permanently restore the freedom to marry in California as soon as possible."

" 'We share the pain, frustration and discrimination that California same-sex couples and their families experience every day because they are denied the freedom to marry,' Palencia said. 'Today, we are recommitting ourselves to doing the hard work of changing hearts and minds to be ready to change that reality should the courts fail to do their job'." 7

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References used:

 The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Returning to the Ballot - 2012 vs. 2012," Equity California, 2009-MAY-26, at:
  2. Marc Solomon, "2010 or 2012? Take our poll," Equity California newsletter, 2009-MAY-19.
  3. Jesse McKinley, "Group Renews Fight for Same-Sex Marriage in California," New York Times, 2009-MAY-07, at:
  4. Vaishalee Raja, "Equality California Recommends Returning to Ballot in 2012 to Win Marriage Back for Same-Sex Couples," Equality California, 2009-AUG-12, at:
  5. "Winning back marriage equality in California: Analysis and Plan:" Page 31, Equality California, 2009-AUG-12, at:
  6. Using data from the 2010 U.S. Census. Data points are approximate. See:
  7. Rebekah Orr, "Equality California Launches ‘The Breakthrough Conversation' Project to Build Support for LGBT Equality and Marriage, Opts Not to Return to Ballot on Marriage in 2012," Equality California, 2011-OCT-05, at:

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Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > California > Overturn Prop. 8 > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JUN-22
Latest update: 2011-OCT-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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