You’d think the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land would have been enough to appease social liberals across these United States. Not so — at least not for some of the most vocal among them. Despite the fact that Americans voted into office an ardently pro-homosexual president, gay activists are nevertheless livid about the results of November’s elections. Yes, they are rejoicing over an Obama White House, but their elation has been tempered by the outcome of a different — and to them, more important — election issue: On the same day Obama roundly defeated John McCain, three major states voted to ban same-sex marriage. Florida and Arizona passed marriage amendments, adding to the list of states with similar laws. But it was in California where the loss resonated the most. Not only is the Golden State perceived as the most culturally influential state in the union, California’s Proposition 8 reversed a decision by the state Supreme Court, which had ruled six months earlier that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right for Californians. In other words, the voters of California — yes, California — voted to ban same-sex marriage, for the second time this decade.
That’s right: In a refreshing change, voters overturned a decision by a Supreme Court, rather than a court overturning the will of the people as expressed through the democratic process. In fact, it was a 2000 ballot measure (which passed with 61 percent of the vote) establishing a California state law against same-sex marriage that was reversed by the state court in May 2008. This time around, Proposition 8, dubbed the most expensive and hard-fought ballot campaign in history, changed California’s state constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. The hundreds of gay and lesbian advocacy groups were devastated. The gay rainbow-striped flag has been flying at half-staff in recent months throughout the state and beyond. What makes the defeat more unbearable for supporters is that they were hurt by the large turnout of black voters, the majority of whom supported Obama. Exit polls in California indicated that 70 percent of black voters backed the same-sex marriage ban.
The tears were really flowing: Julius Turman, an African-American and chairman of California’s LGBT Democratic Club, was quoted in The New York Times (Nov. 8, 2008) as saying that he called his mother in tears when Obama won the presidency, only to be crying over the same-sex marriage vote in a different way some hours later. Poor Julius.
Yet it seems that anger was the more prevalent emotional reaction to the passage of the same-sex marriage ban. San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom set the tenor for the reaction when in solemn tones he delivered the bad news at a grim press conference at City Hall, where hundreds of same-sex couples had rushed to “tie the knot” in the days and hours leading up to the vote. Newsom’s San Francisco, along with Los Angeles and Santa Clara County, has actually sued the state of California in an attempt to block the ban.
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