SACRAMENTO -- The effort to repeal California's constitutional amendment defining marriage in the traditional sense will have to wait until at least 2012 after a homosexual group said Monday it had failed in its petition drive to put the issue on the November ballot.
Love Honor Cherish, the homosexual group, said it had fallen short of collecting the 694,000 signatures required to place a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would overturn Prop 8, passed in 2008. The announcement was not a huge surprise -- the major homosexual activist organizations were not supporting the effort -- but nonetheless was significant because of California's importance in the ongoing debate over marriage's definition.
The amendment would have struck the Prop 8 language from the state constitution -- "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" -- and replaced it with the following: "Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."
Qualifying constitutional amendments for the ballot is a monumental task that normally requires using paid signature gatherers -- something that Prop 8 supporters used in 2008. Love Honor Cherish, the homosexual advocacy group, avoided using paid signature gatherers and relied instead on volunteers and social networking websites. John Henning, executive director of the group, called it a "heartbreaking moment."
"Despite the dogged efforts of hundreds of volunteers across California, we did not get the signatures we needed within the 150-day window set by the state," he said in a statement.
The fact that Love Honor Cherish did not release its totals has led to speculation that it fell far short of 694,000. It originally was aiming for 1 million signatures. It is common for an organization collecting such signatures to give e-mail updates on the numbers if it is anywhere close to its goal, in order to energize supporters. But that did not happen with Love Honor Cherish.
Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego who was involved in helping Prop 8 pass, called Love Honor Cherish's failure good news for Prop 8 backers.
"We don't have to try and defend it this year," Clark told Baptist Press. "It gives us more time to continue to build our coalition and plan and prepare for what we know is going to happen in 2012. The attempt to repeal is going to qualify in 2012, I think. They didn't raise enough money this time. I think they'll have money in place in two years."
Equality California -- a major supporter of "gay marriage" -- did not back the petition drive and instead said it was focusing on 2012 or later for its own petition drive.
In its statement Monday Love Honor Cherish touted a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll showing 50 percent of Californians supporting "gay marriage," 45 percent opposing it. But surveys typically under-poll the opposition to "gay marriage," as well as the support for marriage amendments. For instance, a PPIC poll from October 2008 showed Prop 8 failing, 52-44 percent. It passed, 52-48 percent.
Some pollsters -- and many conservative leaders -- argue that polls increasingly will have trouble obtaining accurate information on "gay marriage" as the conservative position on the issue becomes more and more politically incorrect. People, they argue, are hesitant to acknowledge to a stranger on the phone that they oppose "gay marriage." This theory seemed to gain traction in 2009 when the only poll in Maine that correctly predicted the outcome of a vote that saw "gay marriage" lose was conducted by a polling organization that used a computer to make automated calls with a recorded voice. People, after all, did not have talk to a live person. That organization, Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed Question 1 winning, 51-47. The final margin was 53-47 percent. Question 1 overturned a state law that had legalized "gay marriage."
The California firm, PPIC, did not use automated calls for its survey.
Conservatives also argue that people are less likely to support "gay marriage" when, during a campaign, they begin considering the ramifications of legalizing it, such it being taught as normative in public schools.
"When people get in the privacy of the voting booth, they will vote what they know is right, and that is to preserve traditional marriage," Clark said.