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Gay Rights Fights Not Going Away

POLITICS - California voters won’t be facing “Prop. 8 — the Sequel” on the November 2012 ballot, but that doesn’t mean California’s long-running battle over gay rights will be ending anytime soon.
Equality California announced this week that they won’t be pushing an initiative measure to overturn 2008′s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. Instead, the gay rights group plans to launch “The Breakthrough Conversation,” which the group’s leaders say is designed to reverse the attitudes that made Prop. 8 a 52 percent to 48 percent winner.

With a case challenging the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban slowly making its way through the federal courts, gay rights groups are convinced they can avoid the multi-million dollar costs, inevitable statewide acrimony and the general uncertainty of a ballot battle and instead trust that judges will continue to reverse the decision made by California’s voters.

The planned educational effort is a bit of insurance, said Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California.

“We are recommitting ourselves to doing the hard work of changing hearts and minds to be ready … should the courts fail to do their jobs,” he said.

Which would mean, of course, another ballot measure.

Welcome to the social issues side of California politics, where no vote or decision is really final and where, unlike in the Legislature, there really is no middle ground or room for the opposing sides to compromise.

Did anyone really believe that gay rights groups were going to shrug their shoulders and say, “The people have spoken” after losing the Prop. 8 battle? And if same-sex marriage backers supported a winning ballot measure in 2012, it’s almost a guarantee that the Christian groups and other opponents would begin gearing up for another electoral fight in 2014.

If you’re talking about heath care or pension reform or even (present Republican legislators excluded) taxes, it’s always possible to work out an agreement that both sides can live with, even if they don’t much like it. But when you’re talking about moral issues, it’s good versus evil, with no surrender possible.

And in a state like California, where voters are genuinely conflicted — not to mention politically split — on hot button social issues like abortion, gay rights and assisted suicide, that means those issues are going to find their way onto the ballot again and again and again.

Even though Californians have voted down efforts to require parental notification before a minor gets an abortion three times since 2005, there are ongoing efforts to put another initiative on the ballot next year.

Even without pending ballot measures, there’s still enough legal wrangling going on to ensure that attorneys will be able to keep the Porsche dealership on speed dial.

From the May 2009 case where the state Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 to the continuing appeal of the August 2010 federal court decision overturning the same-sex marriage ban, attorneys have been camping on the courthouse steps, unwilling to let the smallest measure pass unlitigated.

Prop. 8 backers challenged U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on the case because he was gay and then they challenged Judge James Ware’s release of video of the trial. They lost.

Same-sex marriage supporters fought the appeal of the federal court ruling, going to the state Supreme Court to argue that because Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to challenge the ruling, the game should be over.

(Still waiting for the decision on that one, but the justices didn’t seem convinced when they heard that argument last month.)

And just to show that social issue battle isn’t only over same-sex marriage, various Christian and conservative groups have backed a referendum effort to overturn a new law, SB 48, requiring California schools to include the achievements of gays and lesbians in their history curriculum. They have until next Wednesday, Oct. 12, to turn in the 504,760 signatures needed to get the measure on next June’s ballot and good luck getting that done on time.

But just to make the road a little steeper, Equality California filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission last week, charging that the conservative Pacific Justice Institute and the Christian-oriented Capitol Resource Institute are engaged in “an unlawful scheme” to qualify the measure.

If that referendum somehow manages to make the ballot, does anyone really think the lawyers will declare a truce? Or that this will be the last skirmish over social issues in the state?

(John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics. This column was posted first at foxandhoundsdaily.com)

Tags: Prop 8, same-sex marriage, California, politics




CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 81
Pub: Oct 11, 2011

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