Saturday, November 04, 2017

Today in 2008: California Voters Approve Prop 8

Proposition 8, known informally as Prop 8, was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed today, November 4, as a result of the 2008 California state election. Although same-sex marriage was legal in the state, by approving Prop 8 the voters took that right away from gay people. Same-sex couples already married did still have their marriage recognized as legal in the state. 

The proposition was created by opponents of same-sex marriage in advance of the California Supreme Court's May 2008 appeal ruling, which followed the short-lived 2004 same-sex weddings controversy and found the previous ban on same-sex marriage (Proposition 22, 2000) unconstitutional. Proposition 8 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a Federal court (on different grounds) in 2010, although the court decision did not go into effect until June 26, 2013, following the conclusion of proponents' appeals.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision on the appeal in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, ruling that proponents of initiatives such as Proposition 8 did not possess legal standing in their own right to defend the resulting law in Federal court, either to the Supreme Court or (previously) to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The decision left the district court's 2010 ruling intact. On June 28, 2013, the Ninth Circuit, on remand, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and dissolved their previous stay of the district court's ruling, enabling Governor Jerry Brown to order same-sex marriages to resume.

In 2013, The Washington Post did an article on how California, usually considered a rather liberal state, could approve Prop 8.
The answer is both fascinating and complex, and reveals just how much the Golden State (and the country) has evolved on the issue since the 2008 election.
Let's start with the basics. Statewide, Prop. 8 was approved -- the "yes" vote was in favor of eliminating same-sex marriage -- 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent. That number is even more remarkable when you consider that President Obama won California with 61.1 percent of the vote on the same day. (Worth noting: Then candidate Obama opposed same-sex marriage.) 
All five of California's most populous counties -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernadino and San Diego -- voted in favor of Prop. 8 even as Obama was carrying four of the five in the presidential race.
Los Angeles County -- the state's most populous -- is particularly interesting to look at. In LA County, Prop. 8 won a narrow majority of 50.1 percent. But, President Obama carried the county with a whopping 69 percent.
The discrepancy? African American voters, who were overwhelmingly in favor of banning same sex marriage (70 percent supported Proposition 8) even as they supported Obama even more heavily (94 percent). And, to a lesser degree, Hispanic voters followed that same trend -- backing Prop. 8 by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin while giving President Obama 74 percent.
The explanation? Many largely black churches supported Prop. 8 while Hispanics, a heavily Catholic community, were more naturally inclined to side with their faith -- and against gay marriage.

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