Imagine being on an airplane that's making an emergency landing and watching, via the plane's seat-back television, as CNN broadcasts the landing live. That's a little like what it feels like watching the battle over same-sex marriage right now in California.
A California Supreme Court ruling—that the state constitution's guarantees of equal protection apply to gay couples seeking marriage licenses— is trying to land safely on the tarmac of public opinion. But the political storms of anti-gay activists are thrashing the decision, the nose-gear won't extend, and there's smoke in the cabin.
Then, there are Arizona and Florida, where decisions have never even left the ground, and Connecticut, where a state supreme court decision was just as a major political storm was unfolding.
In short, there's a lot of political tension for the LGBT community these days and it's not all about who will be elected president. While the California battle has been getting some attention from the mainstream media, the results of many of these battles will probably be flashed only briefly on most television sets as the broadcast news organizations try to fill their screens until Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain racks up 270 electoral votes.
So, here's what to watch for, by time zones, as the polls close Nov. 4:
—Number: Amendment 2
—Title: Marriage Protection Amendment
—What it will do: Amend the state constitution to define marriage as 'the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife' and states that 'no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized'
—Other questions on ballot: 5
—What it has going for it: The Secretary of State's voter summary says 'This amendment protects marriage' and the financial impact statement that it could bring in more revenue from marriage license fees 'If the amendment has the effect of encouraging marriages ( between one man and one woman ) … .' The site includes statements from proponents but not from opponents. And just this week, Republican McCain jumped one point ahead of Democrat Obama.
—What it has going against it: The state already has a law prohibiting marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The Miami Herald recommends a 'no' vote, saying it not only would 'enshrine discrimination in our state constitution' but would jeopardize benefits for unmarried straight couples and the property rights of seniors who live together for convenience. And a straw poll at the University of South Florida suggests young voters are against it—58 to 34 percent.
—Who's pushing it: Florida4Marriage.org
—Who's fighting it: VoteNoOn2.com
—What the polls say: The measure needs 60 percent support to mass. The latest poll shows it has 53 percent yes ( with 42 percent no and five percent undecided ) . Longtime lesbian activist Nadine Smith calls it 'too close to call.'
—Number: Question 1
—Title: Constitutional Convention
—What it will do: Ask voters whether they want to hold a constitutional convention to amend or revise the state constitution. If they do, most expect a same-sex marriage ban to be among the amendments on the table.
—Other questions on ballot: 1
—What it has going for it: The organization pushing it has been on the job for months, while opponents just got started following the Connecticut Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage earlier this month.
—What it has going against it: In the state constitution's 370-year history, voters have sought a constitutional convention only three times, the last time being in 1965. And opponents have far outraised supporters—$830,000 to $12,000, according to the Associated Press. But the biggest thing going against the measure is the large number of opponent groups, with a wide variety of reasons, not just gay marriage.
—Who's pushing it: ctfamily.org
—Who's fighting it: LMFCT.org
—What the polls say: None available.
—Number: Proposition 102
—Title: Marriage Protection Amendment
—What it will do: Amend the state constitution to say that ' [ o ] nly a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.'
—Other questions on ballot: 7
—What it has going for it: The Secretary of State's voter guide begins with 22 essays by supporters, saying, among other things, 'same sex marriage is about forcing all within our society regardless of religious or traditional beliefs to accept radical changes which will have far reaching consequences.' After that, come 22 essays urging a 'no' vote. Arizona is a heavily Republican state and Republican John McCain is polling 12 points ahead of Democrat Barack Obama.
—What it has going against it: Voters rejected a similar measure in 2006 and the state already has a law prohibiting marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Plus Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano is polling 23 points ahead of her Republican challenger.
—Who's pushing it: YesTo102.com
—Who's fighting it: VoteNoProp102.com
—What the polls say: September 25-28, a poll of 976 registered voters in the state found that 49 percent were ready to vote 'yes,' 42 percent would vote 'no,' and nine percent were undecided.
—Number: Proposition 8
—Title: 'Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry'
—What it will do: Seeks to amend the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and bars recognition of same-sex relationships by state agencies
—Other questions on ballot: 11
—What it has going for it: A lot of money. Proponents have been able to cash the opponents—$27 million to $24 million, according to the Los Angeles Times October 20. The campaign has also benefited from some bad publicity—such as when a public school took some first-graders on a 'field trip' to throw rose petals outside their teacher's same-sex wedding and when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome said at a public event that same-sex marriages is here to stay 'whether you like it or not.'
—What it has going against it: Most prominent state officials, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, are against it.
—Who's pushing it: ProtectMarriage.com
—Who's fighting it: NoOnProp8.com
—What the polls say: Same-sex marriage may or may not land safely November 4. A poll in September showed 55 percent against the amendment; a poll October 17 showed only 45 percent against. The absolute latest poll—released Wed., Oct. 22, by the Public Policy Institute of California— showed 52 percent against.
Copyright 2008 Keen News Service