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Marriage Equality

No on 8 Reaches
Out to Crucial Minority Voters

No on 8 Reaches
Out to Crucial Minority Voters


Minority voters could make or break California's proposed marriage ban on Election Day. As efforts to overturn the state supreme court's May ruling come to a head, the campaign to keep marriage equality is at its peak for a third of the electorate.

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.

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 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 Opinion 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."

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.

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