Prop. 8 Lessons



All of us who were significantly involved in the effort to defeat Proposition 8 have reflected a great deal upon the lessons learned in that campaign. Now, thanks to an in-depth analysis by Dave Fleischer, who has more experience fighting anti-LGBT ballot measures than anyone in the country, the LGBT community has some invaluable insight into what it will take in California if we hope to repeal Proposition 8 at the ballot box, and how communities fighting or anticipating anti-LGBT ballot measures across the nation must prepare.

Two points in the report were most surprising to me:
(1) The election wasn’t really as close as the numbers suggest.
(2) An astounding number of people who were on our side early in the campaign — and from a demographic perspective presumed to be among our strongest supporters — switched their position later in the campaign.

The data establish that the election wasn’t as close as we thought because of “wrong-way voting.” Large numbers of people who opposed “gay marriage” mistakenly voted no. Far fewer people on our side inadvertently opposed the freedom to marry with a yes vote. If we correct for voter intent, our side actually lost the election by eight points rather than four. This means we have a much greater gap to bridge before it will be strategically sound to muster a repeal effort. Remember, in a measure to repeal Prop. 8, there will be no confusion about how to vote. A yes vote will mean yes to marriage for same-sex couples and a no vote will mean no.

As LGBT activists and our allies prepared for the fight over marriage that would become Prop. 8, those involved in the campaign knew victory would be an uphill battle. No such measure anywhere in the nation had ever been defeated, and in California, just eight years before, a statutory measure with identical language (Prop. 22) was passed by a margin of 23 points.