No on 8 Reaches Out to Crucial Minority Voters

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com October 30 2008 12:00 AM ET

As Californians
prepare to vote November 4 on a ballot initiative
that would constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, efforts
to court the state's racial minorities have expanded.
Black, Latino, and Asian voters make up 30% of
California's electorate and could well tip the scales on
Proposition 8 in either direction.

Asian Americans,
who constitute 6% of the state's voters, are the only
racial group in which a majority of decided voters (48%
versus 42%) oppose the ban, according to an October 17
poll by Survey USA. Asians tend to eschew party
affiliations and vote independently, says the Public
Policy Institute of California. As with other racial groups,
No on Prop. 8 has been attempting to garner the most
support possible from Asians with PSAs, fliers, and
targeted events.

Asian American
politicians and public figures gathered in San Francisco
and Los Angeles on Thursday for a press conference opposing
the ban.

State assembly
member Mike Eng debunked the claim that Prop. 8 is needed
to protect ministers and churches who refuse to sanction
same-sex marriage.

"I happen to care
deeply about churches," said Eng, adding that as a
young man he had considered becoming a minister himself. "I
know that religious freedom is very important, and
that’s why I want to tell you categorically
that there is no church, no rabbi, no priest, no
minister, no layperson of the clergy that will be threatened
under the current law as laid down by the California
supreme court, which Proposition 8 seeks to destroy."

Eng added that
churches would not lose their tax-exempt status, nor could
they be sued for refusing to officiate gay weddings.

PROP. 8 x100 AFRICAN AMERICAN (PHOTOS.COM) | Advocate.com
   

Judy Chu, the
state's board of equalization chair, talked about
remembering voters who came to the United States to
flee persecution and take advantage of freedoms
Americans enjoy. Actor John Cho added his own
experience of coming to the United States at age 6 from
Seoul, Korea.

"Really, the only
thing of substance to greet [my parents] here was a
promise, an idea of equality -- that, if not them, their
sons would have as clean a shot at happiness as the
next guy," he said. "I know that when a fan pats me on
the back, or when he cheers at an Asian American on
TV, what he’s cheering is the affirmation of the idea
of equality. For it to be possible, for it to be
permanent…it must apply to everyone."

Forty-seven
percent of likely Latino voters oppose gay marriage, versus
the 41% who say they will vote against the ban. Latinos are
the largest racial minority group in California,
making up 15% of the electorate.

Los Angeles mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa's cousin John Perez, an openly gay
candidate running for state assembly in east Los Angeles,
has been a vocal opponent of Proposition 8. He, along
with other political figures like L.A. County
supervisor Gloria Molina and Board of Education
president Monica Garci, have been pressing Latino voters to
reject the ban. Villaraigosa himself has donated
$25,000 to fight Proposition 8, and has officiated a
handful of same-sex weddings since the supreme court
decision became effective in June.

The city's
prominent Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión
has voiced its opposition to the marriage ban. "It is
not acceptable to impose these beliefs to all society
and, much less, amend the California constitution. We are
against Proposition 8," the newspaper wrote in an
editorial.

Prominent Latino
actors America Ferrera, Tony Plana, and Ana Ortiz
from the ABC show Ugly Betty appeared in a
Spanish-language PSA asking voters to vote against the
ballot initiative.

"Like all
Americans, Latinos have family members and friends who are
gay and deserve the same rights all of us have," Ortiz said
in a press release. "Prop. 8 would take away those
rights, and that's why we urge all Californians to
vote no."

 PROP. 8 x100 AFRICAN AMERICAN (PHOTOS.COM) | Advocate.com

Blacks show the
most support for Proposition 8, with 58% of likely voters
reporting that they favor the amendment, versus 38% who
say they will vote against it. African-American
proposition opponents held a press conference on
October 21, with clergy and public figures speaking
out against the same-sex marriage ban.

"People tend to
look at the black community the way they look at any
community -- they make a sort of sweeping brushstroke of who
we are and what we are," actor Doug Spearman told
The Advocate at the event. Spearman said he
is not convinced that high voter turnout among
African-Americans will have a large impact on
Proposition 8.

Efforts to win
African-American votes have popped up on television, the
Internet, and the radio. Blogs that feature ads and cater to
largely black audiences -- like The Young, Black &
Fabulous and Rod 2.0 -- have seen growth in ads for
and against Proposition 8. The African American
Ministers Leadership Council, a project of the People for
the American Way Foundation, bought airtime for three
radio commercials, each urging voters to oppose
Proposition 8.

"A lot of us are
struggling to make ends meet," an announcer says in
one spot. "Soaring gas prices, foreclosures, outsourcing of
our jobs. Politicians make bad decisions that we all
pay for. But some people are trying to tell us the
real threat to our families comes from gay couples
trying to get married. Who are they kidding? Not me. It's
wrong to support discrimination of any kind."

While Hispanics
and blacks tend to support more liberal candidates and
issues, the racial groups have heavy concentrations of
Roman Catholics and Christians, respectively. Many
clerics are using Proposition 8 as a means to bolster
their opposition to gay rights, but some have been
vocal opponents of the ban. The Reverend Vanessa Mackenzie
of the Church of the Advent in Los Angeles said she has been
discussing the ballot measure with congregants who
insist they're not homophobic but don't believe gays
and lesbians should have marriage rights.

"In my own
congregation I have been having conversations about the
high rate of divorce and the high rate of cohabitation --
because if we talk about threats to marriage, [those
are threats too]," she said.