SAN FRANCISCO – A gay rights group that wants to repeal the state constitutional amendment that stripped same-sex couples in California of the right to get married received clearance Friday to start gathering signatures for a measure that would rescind the gay marriage ban known as Proposition 8.
Los Angeles-based Love Honor Cherish has until May 14 to collect the 807,615 voter signatures required to qualify its initiative for the November 2012 ballot, the secretary of state’s office said.
California voters passed Proposition 8 with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage by striking down a pair of laws that had limited marriage to a man and a woman. The measure inserted the one man-one woman provision into the state Constitution, thereby overruling the court’s decision and halting same-sex marriages in California.
“This is severely impacting people, loving couples who cannot get married. It has severely impacted me not being able to get married,” Love Honor Cherish board chair Tom Watson, who signed as the initiative’s official proponent, said. “It’s been more than three years since Prop 8, and a majority of California residents have realized that it is a mistake to deny loving same-sex couples the right to marry and are ready to reverse the mistake that was made at the ballot box. We should give them that opportunity.”
The repeal initiative submitted by Love Honor Cherish would strike Proposition 8 and state instead “that marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion,” according to a summary prepared by the California Attorney General’s office.
It also contains language stating that clergy would not be required to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs, if the initiative passes.
Love Honor Cherish submitted the proposed initiative in October after Equality California, the state’s largest gay rights group, said it was not prepared to lead a campaign to overturn Proposition 8. In 2008, the measure’s supporters and opponents spent $83 million campaigning for and against the amendment, making it the most expensive political race on a social issue in the nation’s history.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has been reviewing a lower court’s decision from last year that struck down Proposition 8 as a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian Californians. Watson said that if the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds that ruling and lifts its injunction barring same-sex couples from marrying, the repeal initiative would no longer be needed.
But if neither the 9th Circuit nor the U.S. Supreme Court reinstate marriage rights for same-sex couples early next year and instead seek to keep the ban in place while the case works its way through the legal system, Love Honor Cherish would move forward with trying to qualify the repeal measure and campaign for its passage, Watson said.
“If that’s the case, that’s a pretty strong indication we should be seeking to repeal Prop 8 at the ballot,” he said.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance said the potential financial effect on state and local governments would be negligible over the long run.