Despite the passage of Proposition 8 in Nov. 2008 and California’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Proposition 8 in June, the battle for marriage in California is not over yet. Another fight over same-sex marriage is expected, and both sides are already preparing for the next round. When it will be, however, is up in the air as marriage equality supporters are still debating whether it is better to put the repeal of Proposition 8 on the ballot in 2010, 2012 or beyond. Two prominent organizations working to repeal the anti-same-sex marriage amendment are at odds over this issue, with the Courage Campaign still supporting a 2010 ballot box battle and Equality California pushing for 2012 as the year of the next fight. It begs the question: when is the “best time” for marriage equality advocates to place the issue of same-sex marriage on the ballot again?
The Courage Campaign and other supporters who are pushing for marriage equality in 2010 argue that the time to repeal Prop 8 is now, and feasible in 2010. They claim that the large outpouring of grassroots mobilization and support leading up to the 2008 election and the dissent after the passage of Prop 8 have created the momentum, money and interest needed to make same-sex marriage legal again. As other states around the country move to enact marriage equality and join the five states that have already done so in the past year, the time to ensure victory in California is now so that all the necessary resources are here to win. Furthermore, proponents of a ballot measure in 2010 argue that equality cannot wait and that discrimination against same-sex couples must stop now.
On the other side are Equality California and other supporters of a 2012 ballot initiative to repeal Prop 8. They argue that in order to have the most effective campaign and ensure victory, the 2012 election would be the optimal time and venue. A fight in 2012 would ensure that marriage equality advocates have the greatest amount of money and resources available, which may not happen in 2010 due to the recession and the significant money given and spent in 2008. A campaign in 2012 would also give pro-equality activists more time to build a solid and effective grassroots campaign to reach out to crucial swing voters, in contrast to the heavy consultant work done for the “No On 8” campaign. In addition, 2012 will give marriage equality supporters more time to register and cultivate young voters, who are overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage.
So which side should prevail in this discussion? While both sides have merited arguments, the proponents of the 2012 election as the time to repeal Prop 8 have the edge. Anti-equality activists already have a head start in the grassroots campaign due to both their strategy and the blunders the “No On 8” organizers made last year. To win and change the hearts and minds of the thousands of fellow Californians we need, especially those that were swindled by the lies of Prop 8 supporters, it will take persistent and dedicated grassroots activists going throughout the state and having conversations with many, if not all, of these voters.
Moreover, since young voters overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, the 2012 election gives marriage equality advocates another four years worth of registered young voters that are very likely to support the repeal of Prop 8. Young voters are also more likely to vote in big elections, such as a presidential election, so putting the repeal of Prop 8 on the ballot in 2012 would be able to maximize the turnout of young voters.
While same-sex marriage supporters debate their strategy, opponents are already boasting on how this “divide” will put them in a better position. Marriage equality opponents, however, shouldn’t be so hasty in declaring victory yet, as supporters are already mobilizing their grassroots activists, whether or not the battle comes in 2010 or 2012. Certainly, those in favor of same-sex marriage have their work cut out for them and the repeal of Prop 8 won’t come easily. However, I hope leaders and organizers will choose 2012 and that all supporters of equality get out and volunteer to make sure that marriage equality is brought back to our state, regardless of the election cycle it will be in.
Jon Wong is a former UC Irvine student. He graduated from UC irvine in 2009 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.