As deadlines for filing, gathering signatures and fund raising loom, gay rights groups are still debating the timing of a ballot initiative to overturn anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8, which passed last November with 52% of the vote.
The two dates in question are the November elections in 2010 and 2012. Those pushing for holding off until 2012 cite flat poll numbers favoring same-sex marriage since last year’s election, linking them to the difficulties it would create for raising the enormous amount of money necessary to undertake another ballot initiative drive. The Prop 8 campaign cost more than $80 million, with those opposing it spending $43 million.
Two weeks I posted about three gay rights groups in California that joined together, with the endorsement of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in DC, to release a statement calling a 2010 initiative “rushed and risky.” Called “Prepare to Prevail,” its approach calls for a lengthy grass roots movement that engages minority communities that overall supported Prop 8; and waiting for statewide poll numbers to show a 60% approval rating for same-sex marriage before an initiative appears on the ballot.
They target November 2012 election as the more doable option to achieve that number but don’t rule out delaying even longer. (Thing is, same-sex marriage was polling favorably at around 60% several months prior to last year’s election, but also before the Yes 0n 8 campaign kicked in huge amounts of money for advertising, raised from religious groups, notably Mormons.)
Yesterday, The New York Times weighed in with a front page article about the conflict among gay groups about the timing.
Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, said he spent June and early July asking the opinions of nearly two dozen California political consultants and pollsters and had been surprised by the almost unanimous opinion that a 2010 race was a bad idea.
But EQCA’s website says they support a return to the ballot in 2010 because of factors like CA state races, including for governor, that will have strongly pro-marriage equality Democratic candidates; the difficulty of maintaining momentum until 2012; and the presumption that LGBTs will be expected to financially support Obama’s reelection in 2012, making funding a ballot initiative difficult.
(Which is somewhat ironic, given the recent rift between gay groups and his administration for its slow movement and ham-fisted handling of gay issues so far. Recently, there was a brief period when, in protest, gay groups withdrew donations at a gay Democratic fund raising event.)
As this plays out, anti-gay groups like ProtectMarriage.com, the leading organization behind Prop 8, have expressed their delight.
ProtectMarriage’s Frank Shubert told the NY Times, “The other side has said they will not move forward with an initiative until they are sure they can win. That day is not going to come.”
I can’t tell whether those are provocative fighting words or if the anti-gay groups are merely whistling in a graveyard as the views of society change generationally.
As EQCA points out in the arguments it considered for delaying until 2012,
We can assume that some percentage of additional people will come our way during that extra time period as a result of both national trends and a change in the voting population (as those now 15 will be able to vote in 2012, but not 2010, and some people 65 or older will no longer be in the voting pool).