Will California Ban Gay Marriage?

Yesterday's ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage was historic. In six months, it could be history. That's because California is likely to ...
by | May 16, 2008
 

Yesterday's ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage was historic. In six months, it could be history.

That's because California is likely to vote this fall on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Supporters of the measure submitted 1.1 million signatures to the Secretary of State (they only needed about 700,000) and are awaiting confirmation that gay marriage will appear on the November ballot.

There are some good reasons to think the amendment will pass. In 2000, Californians gave 61% of the vote to an initiative to prohibit gay marriage -- that's the law that the court overturned yesterday. The new proposal is for a constitutional amendment, while the 2000 vote was on a mere statute, but voters probably won't think too much about that distinction.

What's more, gay marriage opponents have a near-perfect record in these fights. When states' electorates have voted on constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, 26 out of 27 times they have passed. The only one that didn't was in Arizona, where the amendment also would have forbidden civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Of course, conservative states have been more likely to hold votes on gay marriage than liberal ones. But some fairly Democratic states, including Oregon, Wisconsin and Michigan, have approved gay marriage bans.

Plus, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the court's decision ends up helping the amendment pass. Voters who are ambivalent on gay marriage might be pushed to support the amendment, if they believe the judiciary overstepped its bounds. (For that reason and others, I argued a couple of months ago that the gay rights movement might have been better off losing the California Supreme Court case.)

That said, there are also good reasons to think the amendment might fail, allowing gay marriage to continue.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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