Calif. group launches petition drive to reverse Prop 8

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If a new group has its way, Californians may decide in the midst of the 2010 mid-term elections — President Obama's first major ballot test as chief executive — whether to legalize "gay marriage" once again.

The group, known as "Yes! On Equality," is hoping to collect enough signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that would remove Proposition 8 — which passed in November and defines marriage as between one man and one woman — from the state constitution. The group, though, would halt its effort if the California Supreme Court this year strikes Prop 8 from the constitution, which liberal and homosexual activist groups have asked the court to do.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown's office must first give the ballot initiative an official title and summary before Yes! On Equality can begin gathering signatures. The group submitted its request to Brown's office Jan. 12.

A new ballot initiative could put Obama and fellow Democrats in a tough position on such a controversial social issue, particularly since the homosexual community is part of his base and he has agreed with them on other issues. Last year, Obama opposed Prop 8, calling it discriminatory, while simultaneously saying he opposed "gay marriage." But if he supports the new initiative, he would make history by becoming the first president publicly to back "gay marriage." A recently uncovered document revealed that Obama supported "gay marriage" when running for the Illinois state Senate in 1996. The Los Angeles Times editorial board, in its Jan. 21 edition, said Obama's "views on the issue are an embarrassing muddle."

Yes! On Equality is a different organization than the official group that called itself No on 8 and raised money to oppose Prop 8. Some within the homosexual community have criticized No on 8 officials for running what they viewed as a less-than-stellar campaign. Yes! On Equality — which calls itself the sponsor of the "official 2010 marriage equality initiative" — says its campaign will be different.

"In Addition to starting early, there are numerous factors that distinguish the Yes! Campaign," a statement on the group's website reads. "Perhaps the most paramount, is the inclusion of people. RollingStone, in a critical analysis of the No on 8 Campaign, noted that No on 8 failed to create a grassroots style organization and excluded LGBT community leaders. The Yes! Campaign recognizes this and has therefore built its foundation upon the inclusion of a diverse set of people."

Yes! On Equality also says it will try to connect better with minorities. Exit polls showed that 70 percent of blacks supported Prop 8.

"The Yes! Campaign is continuing where other attempts left off by targeting all groups in our society," the statement said.

Exit polls also showed that Obama received 70 percent of the homosexual vote nationwide, and he has sided with that community on every major issue except "gay marriage." But even on that one issue, he has taken positions that could assist its legalization. In addition to opposing Prop 8, he also opposes a federal marriage amendment and a law known as the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed in 1996 and protects states from being forced to legalize "gay marriage." DOMA, as it is called, also prevents the federal government from legalizing "gay marriage." The new WhiteHouse.gov website says simply that Obama believes "we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act."

The website also contains a long list of issues that Obama and the homosexual community both support, including repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do," a statement by Obama directed toward the homosexual community at WhiteHouse.gov says. "Too often, the issue of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."