Mad Money in the Same-Sex Marriage Argument

During the last 100 years, the states of California and New York have held the greatest sway over the United States’ laws and policies. In recent years, the state of California was the first to ban cigarette smoking in public areas, and implemented laws as controversial as stem-cell research. On November 4, 2008, there is yet another bill that could have an enormous impact on the direction of the United States- Proposition 8: Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.

What brought about Proposition 8? To answer this, we must turn back a few months to May 15, 2008, when the California Supreme Court voted 4-3 in favor of striking down Proposition 22 and other statues that limited the legal qualification of marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court declared these statues were in violation of the equal protection clause under the California Constitution. Shortly thereafter on June 17, 2008, same-sex marriage became legally recognized in the state of California. This decision has provoked heated debate throughout the different districts of California, and has led to the current fight over Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 has not only displayed the ferocity of opinions surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage in the United States, but also the worldwide recognition of California’s influence over global social, economic, and legal areas. By the end of last week, donations for and against Proposition 8 totaled over $57 million, surpassing donations for any candidate or issue in the upcoming California election. What makes the donations even more important is that they come from all 50 U.S states and 17 different countries.

According to the San Francisco NBC News Network, October 25, 2008:

That would be a record nationally for a ballot initiative based on a social rather than economic issue, campaign finance experts say. It also eclipses the combined total of $33 million spent in the 24 states where similar measures have been put to voters since 2004.

If approved by California voters, Proposition 8 would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages by changing the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Campaign committees formed to respectively back and battle the amendment were close in fundraising as of Oct. 23, AP’s analysis found. Supporters have raised at least $27.7 million, while opponents have taken in $29.2 million, closing a fundraising gap that had them $10 million behind at the beginning of the month.

If you think that all Californians are in support of same-sex marriage, think again. On February 12, 2004 when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city clerks to issue same-sex marriage certificates, they were only short lived. The California Supreme Court ruled against the mayor’s decision and ended up voiding all of the certificates. In recent years there have been repeated attempts at passing same-sex marriage bills in the California Legislature, all without success. In 2005 and 2007, the bill passed the legislature, only to be vetoed by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Californians themselves are divided over Proposition 8, and this ambivalence has spared no one. Californian clergy are split over the issue, and Mormons are torn between their views and that of the LDS Church.

Proposition 8 is also a speaking point for the Democratic and Republican candidates for president. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have rejected Proposition 8, calling the act divisive and discriminatory. This stance puts Obama at odds with his prior anti-federalist position on the marriage. John McCain and Sarah Palin both publicly support Proposition 8. One July 2nd, 2008, McCain first came out in support of the ban, explaining:

I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions.

McCain’s position is a step beyond his anti-federalist stance on same-sex marriage, and perhaps is more value-driven than juridical in nature. While the etymology of marriage comes from a specific Judeo-Christian heritage that has been discriminatory toward non-heterosexual relationships, the United States has yet to make a concerted decision on how this word should apply in the contemporary context. If both the California Supreme Court and Californians ends up supporting same-sex marriages, neither federalists nor anti-federalists will have much to say against the law.

In the end, California’s decision may very well decide the future direction of same-sex marriages for the country.

*It should be noted that in addition to Proposition 8, the California ballot contains initiatives on abortion, alternative energy, infrastructure, prison reform, and health care.

  • If you think that Californians are in support of same-sex marriage, think again.

    Did you mean to say all Californians? Because there is certainly a large percentage that do support same-sex marriage as polls for and against this proposition indicate.

    Mormons are torn between their views and that of the LDS Church.

    Glad you made this point. It’s a huge part of the story. I’ve just posted on the my Mormon family’s experience and thoughts on the issue.

  • Stewf– my reason for writing the section you posted is to knock away those who hold the stereotype widely shared outside California that San Francisco culture (which is overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage) is pan-California culture.

    That said, yes, there are quite a lot of Californians who DO support gay marriage, as you noted.

  • I’ve seen polls showing Prop 8 leading by 55/45 in favor of passing. Very close obviously, either way it will be a squeaking yes or no.

    Who knows what will happen, but it is interesting that even in a liberal-leaning state such as California, gay marriage is a heated issue that doesn’t sit well even with many Democrats.

    The money is astonishing though for a single ballot proposition.

  • The largest next to this is $35 million for the Minnesota Senate race right now… yes, absolutely astonishing. And talk about non-U.S influences…

  • Bill Hedges

    Brad Pitt, who grew up in my city, gave a lot of money to get this passed

  • Gaydad05

    A quick correction: the California legislature did pass, in 2005 and 2007, “gender neutral” marriage bills, only to have them vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. His reasoning? It should be left to the courts or the electorate. Enter the courts and their recent decision, the ensuing brouhaha, and now the equal rights of a minority are up for a popular vote. Ah, democracy. Ah, tyranny.

    What your article doesn’t ask, and what is rarely touched upon in the debate, is what exactly do we risk by stretching out our arms a little wider and including gay people in our cultural embrace? I’ll answer that. More happiness. More stability. Better self esteem in our gay youth, our gay seniors. Fewer eggs, fewer epithets. Sounds like a pretty good “social experiment” to me.

  • Gaydad– thank you for the correction. I have amended the commentary accordingly.

    Your comments hold merit and I would expand on them more, in a different commentary. This one was about the role of California in reshaping U.S politics and culture. If the focus was on same-sex marriage, which in itself is limited (what about intersexuals? etc.), then it would entail an entirely different approach and list of details.

  • Stalin

    In order to avoid any Christian bashing, here is a secular point of view on gay marriage. Very interesting:

  • Babs

    Gaydad, I have no problem with embracing a wider culture. But I don’t think that’s the issue here – not cultural, I mean. It’s a legality issue as I understand it.

  • J Young

    Homosexual marriage is gay.

  • J Young— your comment can be taken in a variety of directions. Like most marriages, same-sex marriages involve merriment.

    And yes, many same-sex marriages are relationships between two gay men, but it can also include women (and bi-sexuals).

  • Mike from Ohio

    If two males marry and adopt a child, does either get maternity leave?

    If two females marry, does only one get maternity leave?

    Some companies offer paternity leave, but most do not. When it comes to adoption (which is a point I do not need to elaborate), the male usually does not receive any leave.

    The answers to the questions are just something that will need to be worked out. The big question is why should same sex marriage be allowed?

    I suppose it has it’s root in the fact that people that are very close want to find a way to express their commitment. That is great. Go for it.

    In the USA the fact that you are married used to mean that you received certain benefits when you were married when it came around to taxes. Today, it is not that clear. It also used to mean that you could include your spouse and children on insurance if were lucky enough to have it. That has changed a bit now that some companies recognize ‘partners’ for insurance benefits.

    C’mon America. Save something for us straight folks. I should not have my insurance premiums sky rocket when the list of insured increases just because two people decide they are ‘married’. What would happen if heterosexuals could say that they were ‘partners’ whenever they felt like it.

    This argument about same sex marriage makes no sense. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

  • peace

    Theres no point of fighting becuase even though if prop 8 passesand there are no gay marriages, gay people will still be together and kids will make thier decisions if they want to be gay or not. You caan’t change on whats happening in the world.

  • jesus’08

    goodness. gay people need to get over themselves.
    so the devil has convinced you that your normal, good 4 you.
    your still not in my eyes.
    why would we allow our country to recognize gay marriages so our children can grow up and be taught such in their schools. no thank you. we have enough corruption going around. being gay is it right? no. even from a non religious perspective. mother nature is against it herself, can a man and a man have a baby? i think not.

  • Michael


    I would think more critically about your words, especially in relation to what Jesus said. Also, consider that in our highly homophobic country over the last 40+ years, many homosexual children grew up in heterosexual households.

    It is not through “homosexual teachings” that people became gay, lesbian, etc.

    Mike from Ohio-
    There are still very significant advantages, legally, to being married. Among them are visitation rights at hospitals, custody of children, a plethora of issues when you travel outside your country, etc.

    Allowing people to marry does not hurt others– the act of expressing devotion, compassion, to a partner does not implicitly harm a group of people. When it comes down to it, it is about how you see/value the ritual that is taking place. The ‘harm’ you are vocalizing is witnessing the re-contextualization of marriage to mean something much broader than it used to be. There is nothing being taken away from heterosexual couples with same-sex marriage, the only thing changing is the strict idea of what marriage implies.