Nation watches as CA votes on Prop. 8

November 4, 2008 2:41:53 PM PST
Public attitudes about sexual orientation and civil rights faced a history-making test Tuesday as California voters weighed whether to outlaw same-sex marriage five months after gay couples won the right to wed in the state. With polls showing a close contest and high national interest in the outcome, supporters and opponents of Proposition 8 rallied voters to the polls with prayer services, recorded appeals from celebrities and what was said to be an unprecedented door-knocking campaign on both sides. The measure seeks to overturn the California Supreme Court decision in June that legalized same-sex marriage. It would change the state Constitution to limit marriage to a woman and a man. It marks the first time voters have had the chance to ban gay marriage retroactively. Spending for and against the amendment has surpassed $70 million, making it the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House. The election has pitched a coalition of Roman Catholic, Mormon and evangelical Christians against gay rights activists and their allies. The No on 8 campaign has received key endorsements, including those of California's major newspapers, its two U.S. senators and the League of Women Voters. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also opposes Proposition 8. The Yes side has responded with the organizational might of the state's churches. Proposition 8's sponsors said they planned to have 100,000 people staffing phone banks and working near polling places on Election Day, compared with 10,000 volunteers working to get out the vote for the No side. Both campaigns were making extra efforts to court Hispanic and black voters, who are expected to turn out in large numbers for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Polls show they are more inclined than whites and Asians to support Proposition 8. The vote comes eight years after California voters passed Proposition 22, which amended state law to limit marriage to a man and a woman. The state Supreme Court overturned that law in June, prompting same-sex opponents to seek a constitutional ban. Thirty years ago, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have prohibited gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. The so-called Briggs Initiative failed 58 percent to 42 percent.

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