Advocates of gay marriage who want to overturn California's controversial Proposition 8 are finding they aren't only doing battle with social conservatives -- they are fighting among themselves. The issue is how long to wait to put same-sex marriage back on the ballot.
Prop 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, passed last November. Some pro-gay groups say they need another three years -- November of 2012 -- to get organized for another ballot battle. But other groups want to push for a vote in November 2010.
The largest groups are the ones that want to wait. Marc Solomon, marriage director of Equality California, explained in a conference call, "It takes time, commitment and lots of lots of volunteers to undo the untruths that our opponents have been telling. We can have majority support by 2012."
Solomon pointed out 2012 is a presidential election year, and he predicts the higher turnout, especially among young voters, will add four points to the margin of victory. What Solomon did not say -- but surely knows -- is that 2008 was a presidential election year, and his side still lost, despite millions of young people voting for the first time.
Solomon also said big donors are not ready to contribute again so soon after failure. He thinks it will cost upwards to $100 million to mount a successful campaign.
But the smaller, grassroots organizations said they can get the job done with just $32 million. They fear waiting will sap the momentum from those angry at last year's vote, so they vow a challenge next year.
"This is not some kitchen table group. If you stop that momentum now, those people won't necessarily be there in 2012 when you decide to start your campaign back up," John Henning, executive director of Love Honor Cherish said.
All eyes are on California, which has long been a petrie dish of sorts for social change. After Prop 8 passed, several Northeastern states passed laws legalizing gay marriage. They certainly were victories for gay marriage advocates and defeats for traditional marriage supporters. But still, California is the biggest fish of all, and both sides are ready for another round.
"California will continuously stay in play and it is a big prize," said Tom McClusky, vice president of the legislative arm of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby. "Of course we would be willing to go toe to toe again."