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Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008, state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of Article I, to the California Constitution. The new section reads:

By restricting the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the proposition overturned the California Supreme Courtmarker's ruling of In re Marriage Cases that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. The wording of Proposition 8 was precisely the same as that which had been found in Proposition 22, which, as an ordinary statute, had been invalidated by the Supreme Court. Californiamarker's State Constitution put Proposition 8 into immediate effect the day after the election. The proposition did not affect domestic partnerships in California.

Proponents of the constitutional amendment argued that exclusively heterosexual marriage was "an essential institution of society," that leaving the constitution unchanged would "result in public schools teaching our kids that gay marriage is okay," and that gay people would "redefine marriage for everyone else." Opponents argued that "the freedom to marry is fundamental to our society," that the California constitution "should guarantee the same freedom and rights to everyone" and that the proposition "mandates one set of rules for gay and lesbian couples and another set for everyone else." They also argued that "equality under the law is a fundamental constitutional guarantee" (see Equal Protection Clause).

The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $39.9 million and $43.3 million, respectively, becoming the highest-funded campaign on any state ballot that day and surpassing every campaign in the country in spending except the presidential contest. After the elections, demonstrations and protests occurred across the state and nation. Same-sex couples and government entities filed numerous lawsuits with the California Supreme Courtmarker challenging the proposition's validity and effect on previously administered same-sex marriages. In the Strauss v. Horton case, the court upheld Proposition 8, but allowed existing same-sex marriages to stand (under the Grandfather clause principle). Additional lawsuits in federal courts are still pending.

History of the ballot initiative

Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition that sought to change the California Constitution to add a new section (7.5) to Article I, that would read: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." This change would restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, and eliminate same-sex couples' right to marry, thereby overriding portions of the ruling of In re Marriage Cases by "carving out an exception to the preexisting scope of the privacy and due process clauses" of the state constitution.

To qualify for the ballot, Proposition 8 needed 694,354 valid petition signatures, equal to 8% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 General Election. The initiative proponents submitted 1,120,801 signatures, and on June 2, 2008, the initiative qualified for the November 4, 2008 election ballot through the random sample signature check.

Pre-election legal challenges

Petition to remove proposition from ballot

On July 16, 2008, the California Supreme Court denied a petition calling for the removal of Proposition 8 from the November ballot. The petition asserted the proposition should not be on the ballot on the grounds it was a constitutional revision that only the Legislature or a constitutional convention could place before voters. Opponents also argued that the petitions circulated to qualify the measure for the ballot inaccurately summarized its effect. The court denied the petition without comment. As a general rule, it is improper for courts to adjudicate pre-election challenges to a measure's substantive validity. The question of whether Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment or constitutional revision was ruled on by the California Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and found that it was not a revision and therefore would be upheld. They also declared that the same-sex marriages performed prior to the passing of Prop 8 would remain valid.

Challenge to title and summary

The measure was titled: "Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment." The ballot summary read that the measure "changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California."

Proponents of the measure objected to the wording of the ballot title and summary on the grounds that they were argumentative and prejudicial. The resulting legal petition Jansson v. Bowen was dismissed August 7, 2008, by California Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, who ruled that "the title and summary includes an essentially verbatim recital of the text of the measure itself", and that the change was valid because the measure did, in fact, eliminate a right upheld by the California Supreme Court.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown explained that the changes were required to more "accurately reflect the measure" in light of the California Supreme Court's intervening In re Marriage Cases decision.

On July 22, 2008, Proposition 8 supporters mounted a legal challenge to the revised ballot title and summary, contending that Attorney General Brown inserted "language [...] so inflammatory that it will unduly prejudice voters against the measure". Supporters claimed that research showed that an attorney general had never used an active verb like “eliminates” in the title of a ballot measure in the past fifty years in which ballot measures have been used. Representatives of the Attorney General produced twelve examples of ballot measures using the word "eliminates" and vouched for the neutrality and accuracy of the ballot language.

On August 8, 2008, the California Superior Court turned down the legal challenge, affirming the new title and summary, stating, "[t]he title and summary is not false or misleading because it states that Proposition 8 would 'eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry' in California. The California Supreme Court unequivocally held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry under the California Constitution." That same day, proponents of Prop. 8 filed an emergency appeal with the state appeals court. The Court of Appeal denied their petition later that day and supporters did not seek a review by the Supreme Court of Californiamarker. The deadline for court action on the wording of ballot summaries and arguments in the voter pamphlet was August 11, 2008.

While turning down the challenge to the title and summary, the California Superior Court also found that the Yes on 8 campaign had overstated its ballot argument on the measure's impact on public schools and ordered a minor change in wording. The original arguments included a claim that the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage requires teachers to tell their students, as young as kindergarten age, that same-sex marriage is the same as opposite-sex marriage. The court said the Yes on 8 argument was false because instruction on marriage is not required and parents can withdraw their children. The court said the ballot argument could be preserved by rewording it to state that teachers "may" or "could" be required to tell children there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage.


Campaign funding and spending

By Election Day, volunteers on both sides spent thousands of hours getting their messages across to the state's 17.3 million registered voters. The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 raised $39.9 million and $43.3 million, respectively. Contributions totaled over $83 million from over 64,000 people in all fifty states and more than twenty foreign countries, setting a new record nationally for a social policy initiative and trumping every other race in the country in spending except the presidential contest. Contributions were much greater than those of previous same-sex marriage initiatives. Between 2004 and 2006, 22 such measures were on ballots around the country, and donations to all of them combined totaled $31.4 million, according to the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics. A spokeswoman estimated that 36 companies which had previously contributed to Equality California were targeted to receive a letter requesting similar donations to


Official "Yes on 8" campaign sign.
The organization sponsored the initiative that placed Proposition 8 on the ballot and continues to support the measure. The measure also attracted the support of a number of political figures and religious organizations.

Political figures

Republican presidential nominee and U.S. Senator John McCain released a statement of support for the proposed constitutional amendment. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich released a video in support. Both characterized the court ruling requiring recognition of same sex marriage as being against the will of the people. Other notable supporters include Republican State Senator Tom McClintock and 20 other Republican State Senators and Assemblymembers.

Religious organizations

The Roman Catholic Church, as well as a Roman Catholic lay fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, staunchly supported the measure. The bishops of the California Catholic Conference released a statement supporting the proposition, a position met with mixed reactions among church members, including clergy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly known as Mormons, also publicly supported the proposition. The First Presidency of the church announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter intended to be read in every congregation in California. In this letter, church members were encouraged to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." Local LDS leaders set organizational and monetary goals for their membership—sometimes quite specific—to fulfill this call. The response of the LDS membership to their leadership's appeals to donate money and volunteer time was very supportive, such that Latter-day Saints provided a significant source for financial donations in support of the proposition, both inside and outside the State of California. About 45% of out-of-state contributions to came from Utahmarker, over three times more than any other state.ProtectMarriage, the official proponents of Proposition 8, estimate that about half the donations they received came from LDS sources, and that "eighty to ninety percent" of the early volunteers going door-to-door were LDS. The LDS Church produced and broadcast to its congregations a program describing the opposition to the Proposition, and describing the timeline it proposes for what it describes as grassroots efforts to oppose the Proposition.

Other religious organizations that supported Proposition 8 include the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Eastern Orthodox Church, a group of Evangelical Christians led by Jim Garlow and Miles McPherson, American Family Association, Focus on the Familymarker and the National Organization for Marriage. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, also endorsed the measure.


The Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego Countymarker, California, publicly voted on a resolution endorsing Proposition 8. The Governing Board voted 4-0 to endorse the amendment of the California State Constitution.

The Asian Heritage Coalition held a rally in support of Proposition 8 in downtown San Diego on October 19, 2008.

During the November 2008 election campaign, Porterville's City Council was the only City Council in California that passed a Resolution in favor of Proposition 8.

"Whether You Like It or Not" advertisement

In the months leading up to Election Day, Proposition 8 supporters released a commercial featuring San Franciscomarker Mayor Gavin Newsom stating in a speech regarding same-sex marriage: "This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not." Some observers noted that polls shifted in favor of Proposition 8 following the release of the commercial; this, in turn, led to much speculation about Newsom’s unwitting role in the passage of the amendment.


Official "Vote NO on Prop 8" logo
Equality for All was the lead organization opposed to Proposition 8. They also ran the campaign. As with the measure's proponents, opponents of the measure also included a number of political figures and religious organizations. Some non-partisan organizations and corporations, as well as the editorial boards of many of the state's major newspapers, also opposed the measure.

Political figures

While Democratic presidential nominee and U.S. Senator, Barack Obama stated that he personally considers marriage to be between a man and woman, and supports civil unions that confer comparable rights rather than gay marriage, but stated that he opposed "divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution... the U.S. Constitution or those of other states." Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden also opposed the proposition. Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that although he opposed and twice vetoed legislative bills that would recognize same sex marriage in California, he respected and would uphold the court's ruling and oppose the initiative and other attempts to amend the state's constitution. The U.S. House Speaker, California Representative (8th District), Nancy Pelosi along with twenty other members of the 53 member California congressional delegation and both of California's U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, voiced their opposition to Proposition 8. Also voicing their opposition were the Lieutenant Governor, State Controller John Chiang, former governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown, 42 of 80 members of the state assembly, half of the state senators, and the mayors of San Franciscomarker, Los Angeles, and San Diegomarker: Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Jerry Sanders, respectively.

Religious organizations

All six Episcopal diocesan bishops in California jointly issued a statement opposing Proposition 8 on September 10, 2008. Southern California's largest collection of rabbis, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, voted to oppose Proposition 8. Other Jewish groups who opposed Proposition 8 include Jewish Mosaic, the American Jewish Committee, Progressive Jewish Alliance, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Anti-Defamation League. Los Angeles Jews were more opposed to Prop 8 than any other religious group or ethnic group in the city. Jewish Angelinos voted 78% against the measure while only 8% supported the measure; the remainder declined to respond. The legislative ministry of the Unitarian Universalists opposed Proposition 8, and organized phone banks toward defeating the measure.

In addition, the California Council of Churches issued a statement urging the "immediate removal of Proposition 8" - saying that it infringes on the freedom of religion for churches who wish to bless same-sex unions.


The League of Women Voters of California opposed Proposition 8 because "no person or group should suffer legal, economic or administrative discrimination." Additionally, all but two of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's local chapters in California and NAACP national chairman Julian Bond and President Benjamin Jealous opposed Proposition 8. Amnesty International also condemned Proposition 8, saying that "states should never withhold rights based on minority status".

A coalition of Silicon Valleymarker executives urged a 'No' vote on Proposition 8. Google officially opposed Proposition 8 "as an issue of equality." Apple Inc.marker also opposed Proposition 8 as a "fundamental" civil rights issue, and donated $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign. Biotech leaders warned of potential damage to the state's $73 billion industry, citing Massachusetts as a top competitor for employees. Many members of the entertainment industry were opposed to Proposition 8.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously for a resolution to oppose Proposition 8. The California Teachers Association donated one million dollars to fight Proposition 8. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of UC Berkeleymarker urged a vote against the measure, claiming a likely threat to California's academic competitiveness if Proposition 8 is passed.

The NOH8 Campaign is a silent protest photo project against California Proposition 8. The campaign features photographs portraying people in front of a white backdrop wearing white t-shirts, their mouths taped shut and "NOH8" painted on their cheek. The campaign was created on February 1st, 2009 by photographer Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley. The photos are featured on the campaigns website, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, MySpace, as well as a virtual world campaign in Second Life.

Newspaper Editorials and Proposition 8

All ten of the state's largest newspapers editorialized against Proposition 8, including the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Other papers to have editorialized in opposition includeThe New York Times, La Opinión (Los Angeles), and The Bakersfield Californian.

Crimes against supporters and opponents

A week before the vote, Fresnomarker Mayor Alan Autry received an email containing death threats against both himself and Pastor Jim Franklin of Fresno's Cornerstone Church, both of whom had spoken in support of Proposition 8 during a rally at Fresno city hall the preceding weekend. According to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, the email stated that the threat "was stemming from Prop 8".. Fresno "No on 8" organizer Jason Scott condemned the death threats, and Mayor Autry expressed concern that there might be a backlash against opponents of the measure. Fresno-area supporters of gay marriage were also harassed; "No On 8" signs at the Clovis Unitarian Universalist Church were torn up, with Reverend Bryan Jessup alleging that his church experienced vandalism "every night".

At a LDS church in Orangevalemarker (in Sacramento Countymarker), vandals spray painted in red letters on the front sign and sidewalk: "No on 8" and "No on Prop 8". An affiliate group of the Radical Trans/Queer organization Bash Back! claims to have poured glue into the locks of an LDS church and spray painted its walls.

Santa Clara Countymarker Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Jay Boyarsky attributed a surge in anti-gay hate crimes, from 3 in 2007 to 14 in 2008, to controversy over Proposition 8. However, the DDA questioned the reliability of small statistical samples, asserting that the vast majority of hate incidents don't get referred to the DA's office.

Pre-decision opinion polls

Various opinion polls were conducted to estimate the outcome of the proposition. Those margins with differences less than their margins of error are marked as "n.s.", meaning not significant (see Statistical significance). Those margins considered statistically significant are indicated with the percentage points and the side favored in the poll, as either "pro" for in favor of the proposition's passage (e.g., 1% pro), or "con" for against its passage (e.g., 1% con).

According to the director of the Field Poll, the discrepancy between the pre-election polls and ballot results is because "regular church-goers ... were more prone than other voters to be influenced by last-minute appeals to conform to orthodox church positions when voting on a progressive social issue like same-sex marriage."

Date of opinion poll Conducted by Sample size

(likely voters)
In favor Against Undecided Margin Margin of Error
29–31 October 2008 SurveyUSA 637 47% 50% 3% n.s. ±4%
18–28 October 2008 The Field Poll 966 44% 49% 7% 5% con ±3.3%
12–19 October 2008 Public Policy Institute of California 1,186 44% 52% 4% 8% con ±3%
15–16 October 2008 SurveyUSA 615 48% 45% 7% n.s. ±4%
4–5 October 2008 SurveyUSA 670 47% 42% 10% 5% pro ±3.9%
23–24 September 2008 SurveyUSA 661 44% 49% 8% 5% pro ±3.9%
9–16 September 2008 Public Policy Institute of California 1,157 41% 55% 4% 14% con ±3%
5–14 September 2008 The Field Poll 830 38% 55% 7% 17% con ±3.5%
12–19 August 2008 Public Policy Institute of California 1,047 40% 54% 6% 14% con ±3%
8–14 July 2008 The Field Poll 672 42% 51% 7% 9% con ±3.9%
17–26 May 2008 The Field Poll 1,052 42% 51% 7% 9% con ±3.2%
22 May 2008 Los Angeles Times/KTLAmarker 705 54% 35% 11% 19% pro ±4%


Amending the California Constitution by voter initiative requires a simple majority to be enacted.

Edison/Mitofsky conducted an exit poll on behalf of the National Election Pool which is the only source of data on voter demographics in California in the 2008 election. Interpreting the exit poll requires some care, as it does not include information about the poll locations where the surveys were conducted. This can be a problem, because exit polls are more inaccurate than regular opinion polls, due to an intrinsic geographical bias stemming from the fact that most precincts are not sampled.

The statistical trends from the exit poll of 2,240 voters suggested that an array of voters came out both in opposition to and in support of Proposition 8, with no single demographic group making up all of either the Yes or No vote. Support for Proposition 8 was strong amongst African American voters and those who described themselves as religious. Young voters were more likely to have voted against the ballot measure than older voters, while Republicans were more likely to have supported the measure than were Democrats.

Post-election events

A constitutional amendment passed by the electorate takes effect the day after the election. On the evening of November 4 the "Yes on 8" campaign issued a statement by Ron Prentice, the chairman of, saying "The people of California stood up for traditional marriage and reclaimed this great institution." The organizers of the "No on Prop 8" campaign issued a statement on November 6 saying "Tuesday’s vote was deeply disappointing to all who believe in equal treatment under the law." The counties of Los Angeles, San Franciscomarker, Yolo, Kernmarker, Santa Barbaramarker, San Luis Obispomarker, Sonomamarker, San Diegomarker, San Bernardinomarker, Sacramentomarker, and Tuolumnemarker stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the day after the election.


Following the passage of Proposition 8, mass protests took place across the state. These included protests outside a temple of the LDS Church in Westwood, Los Angelesmarker; a march through Hollywoodmarker that blocked traffic and elicited police intervention; and a candlelight vigil in front of the Sacramentomarker Gay and Lesbian Center.

On Sunday November 9 an estimated crowd of 4,000 people protested in front of the California State Capitol. In San Franciscomarker, thousands gathered in front of the City Hall to protest the proposition and to perform a candlelit vigil. Speakers who voiced their opinion in opposition of Proposition 8 included state senator Mark Leno and mayor Gavin Newsom.

Outside California, a protest at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake Citymarker, Utahmarker was addressed by local gay rights supporters including former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and three gay members of the Utah Legislature: Senator Scott McCoy and Representatives Christine Johnson and Jackie Biskupski. On November 12, 2008, more than 10,000 protesters gathered outside the Manhattan New York Temple to protest the support of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Proposition 8. On November 15, 2008, tens of thousands of people in cities around the United States participated in rallies to protest the passage of Proposition 8 and to promote the expansion of civil marriage to same-sex couples throughout the nation.

On November 7, 2008, a blogger revealed that Scott Eckern, then Artistic Director of California Musical Theatre, made a personal donation of $1,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. All campaign contributions of $1,000 or more required a name, home and occupation be listed. On November 10, gay artists called for a boycott of California Musical Theatre. On November 11, Eckern issued an apology on the online site Playbill that stated that a similar donation was made to a Human Rights organization that includes gay rights as one of its causes. On November 12, Eckern resigned from California Musical Theatre. Executive producer of the CMT Richard Lewis stated that Eckern was not forced to resign but did so of his own accord.

Richard Raddon, Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, also resigned due to boycotts by the gay community.

To protest the passage of Proposition 8, musical theatre composer Marc Shaiman wrote a satiric mini-musical called  "Prop 8 — The Musical". The 3-minute video was distributed on the internet at The cast includes Jack Black (who plays Jesus), Nicole Parker, Neil Patrick Harris, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Margaret Cho, Rashida Jones, Sarah Chalke, Jennifer Lewis, John Hill and other celebrities. It was directed by Adam Shankman. The video satirizes Christian churches that selectively pick and choose biblical doctrines to follow. It received 1.2 million internet hits in its first day, was nominated for the Webby Award category Comedy: Individual Short or Episode, and won a GLAAD media award.

Protests in California were marred by racial incidents. Due to their support of Proposition 8, reported as high as 70 percent, some African Americans attending events were allegedly subjected to racial epithets and felt threatened. California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass stated she was disturbed by the treatment of African Americans in the aftermath of the passage of the proposition.In reaction to the racial incidents, Evan Wolfson said, "In any fight, there will be people who say things they shouldn't say, but that shouldn't divert attention from what the vast majority are saying against this, that it's a terrible injustice."

Controversies about campaign financing and donations

On November 13, 2008, Fred Karger of the group Californians Against Hate filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission that campaign finance reports filed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under-reported its actual Proposition 8 campaign expenses as $2,078.97. Karger charged that the Church's failure to report "non-monetary contributions" placed it in violation of California's Political Reform Act. Church spokesman Scott Trotter denied the charges, saying the church had "fully complied with the reporting requirements" and a "further report will be filed on or before [...the] due date, Jan. 30, 2009."{{citeweb | url=,5143,705262980,00.html?pg=1 | title=Prop 8 foes file complaint against LDS | work=Deseret News | publisher=The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | date=2008-11-14 | accessdate=2009-02-07}} In a report filed with the California Secretary of State's office January 30, 2009, the LDS Church reported its non-monetary expenditures as $189,903.58.{{cite web | url= | title=Campaign Finance Summary Information | author=The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | publisher=California Secretary of State | date=2009-01-30 | accessdate=2009-02-07}} On January 31, the ''[[San Francisco Chronicle|SF Chronicle]]'' stated, "While the deadline for the report, which covers the period from July 1 to Dec. 31, is [February 2], many campaign contributions by major donors and independent committees must be reported within days after they're made." The article further stated that the executive director of the FPPC stated that the LDS church was still under investigation, and "In general, however, 'cases like these hinge over what had to be reported and when it had to be reported.' A late report covering disputed filings 'wouldn't remove the obligation to file on time' but would be considered by investigators."

The Boston Herald reported on February 2, 2009:
While many church members had donated directly to the Yes on 8 campaign—some estimates of Mormon giving range as high as $20 million—the church itself had previously reported little direct campaign activity.

But in the filing made Friday, the Mormon church reported thousands in travel expenses, such as airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals for the campaign. The church also reported $96,849.31 worth of 'compensated staff time'—hours that church employees spent working to pass the same-sex marriage ban.

In a statement issued February 2, 2009, the LDS Church responded to "erroneous news reports", saying its subsequent disclosure was "in no way prompted by an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission," that "We believe we have complied with California law," and that the report's filing date met the January 31, 2009 deadline.
The Church, like other organizations on both sides of the ballot issue, was required to publicly file these donations by the 31 January deadline.
The Church has been filing required contribution reports throughout the campaign.
Those earlier donations 'initially stated' were filed for specific time periods prior to this last reporting period, as required by law.
Other groups are also filing their final contribution reports to meet the same deadline.

On January 7, 2009, supporters of Proposition 8 filed a federal lawsuit to block public disclosure of their donations. Alleging threats against their lives as well as other forms of harassment, the lawsuit also requested a preliminary injunction that ordered the California Secretary of State to remove information about donations posted on its website. Opponents of Proposition 8 called it "hypocritical" that its supporters would refer to their support of the measure as the "will of the people" while seeking to overturn voter-approved campaign disclosure laws. U.S. District Judge Morrison England, Jr. denied that request on January 29; he said that the public had the right to know about donors of political causes, that he did not agree that the plaintiffs had a probability of success in court, and that they had not proven they would suffer "irreparable injury" if he did not grant the preliminary injunction.


California Supreme Court cases

After the passage of Proposition 8, a number of lawsuits were filed against the state and state officials with the intent of overturning the measure and arguing that Proposition 8 should not have retroactive effect on existing same-sex marriages. On November 13, 2008, the California Supreme Courtmarker asked California Attorney General Jerry Brown for an opinion on whether the Court should accept these cases for review and whether the measure should be suspended while they decide the case. On November 19, the Court accepted three lawsuits challenging Proposition 8 but denied the requests to stay its enforcement. The Court asked for final briefs by January 5, 2009. Oral arguments were held on March 5, 2009.

On Tuesday May 26 the court ruled that "The Amendment to the State Constitution referred to as Proposition 8 is valid and enforceable from the moment it was passed." The court also held that "Proposition 8 must be understood as creating a limited exception to the state equal protection clause." Justice Moreno in his lone dissenting opinion, argued that such a change to the Constitution should only be implemented "by a constitutional revision to modify the equal protection clause to protect some, rather than all, similarly situated persons" and not by a simple majority vote.

The Court did rule that their decision cannot be applied to retroactively annul marriages that were transacted while the practice was legal in the state of California. Proposition 8 has no retroactive effect. The California Supreme Courtmarker ruled unanimously on May 26th, 2009 that the approximately 18,000 gay marriages that had occurred prior to Proposition 8's passage would still be valid and must continue to be recognized in the state, since the amendment does not state explicitly that it would nullify the gay marriages performed before it took effect.

Later legislation clarified that same-sex couples who married out-of-state within the window of legality would also retain their legal marriage rights. The bill was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2009.

Federal challenges

Smelt v. United States of America
Immediately following the passage of Proposition 8, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer filed suit in the Southern Division of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, in Orange Countymarker. In the case, Smelt v. United States of America, the plaintiffs argued that Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the Equal Protection Clause of the American constitution. The United States Justice Departmentmarker has filed a motion to dismiss the case because the "plaintiffs are married, and their challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") poses a different set of questions." On July 15, 2009, District Judge Carter dismissed the part of Smelt that challenged Proposition 8, finding that the plaintiffs, who are legally married in California, have no standing to challenge Proposition 8. The challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, however, remains intact. The remainder of the case was heard on August 3, 2009, in an Orange County district court. The lawsuit was thrown out of court because the two men had accidentally filed suit against the federal government in a state court, a technicality in which the suit must be re-filed.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger
On the day of Strauss v. Horton's decision, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the validity of Proposition 8. Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have since announced their support for the lawsuit. San Franciscomarker filed a motion to and was granted intervenor status in the case, saying that their work in In re Marriage Cases and Strauss v. Horton provided them with "extensive evidence and proposed findings on strict scrutiny factors and factual rebuttals to long claimed justifications for marriage discrimination".

California Attorney General Jerry Brown backed the lawsuit, saying that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution and should be struck down. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took a more neutral path, saying that he supported the lawsuit because the Proposition 8 conflict asks "important constitutional questions that require and warrant judicial determination." Because this means that the Californian government will not defend the law in court, the proponents of Proposition 8's campaign were granted the right to intervene as defendants. The case was first heard on July 2, 2009, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Franciscomarker, Judge Vaughn R. Walker presiding.

In August, Judge Walker heard further requests for intervenor status, and ordered a trial set for January 2010, which is set to address questions as wide-ranging as whether being gay diminishes one's contribution to society, affects one's ability to raise children, impairs judgment, or constitutes a mental disorder.

Ballot repeal effort

On April 30, 2009, Yes! on Equality submitted a ballot initiative dubbed "California Marriage Equality Act" to the Attorney General's office, requesting a title and summary. The text of the ballot would repeal Article I; Section 7.5 of the Californian Constitution as well as clarifying that no school curriculum will be changed and no clergy will be forced to perform any "service or duty incongruent with their faith". Yes! on Equality had until August 17, 2009, to gather 694,354 signatures in order to qualify for the June 2010 ballot, though it appears they did not have enough signatures. They have filed the petition for initiative for the November 2010 ballot and now have until April 5th, 2010 to obtain enough signatures. The campaign said it had decided that it would be a better strategy to wait and have a repeal measure on the November 2010 ballot. Brendan Ross, a spokesman for "Yes! on Equality", told a reporter that they are " longer gathering signatures for the first initiative, but will still use those pages of signatures as contacts for when it's time to continue gathering signatures."

Several LGBT groups of color (including API Equality-LA, HONOR PAC, and the Jordan/Rustin Coalition) published a statement "Prepare to Prevail," in which they argue that the ballot repeal effort should be delayed until 2012.

Full text

Proposition 8 consisted of only two short sections. Its full text was:

Section I. Title
:This measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act."
Section 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution. to read:
:Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

See also


  1. Text of Proposition 8, Official Voter Information Guide (draft copy), retrieved July 28, 2008
  2. Costa v. Superior Court (2006) 37 Cal.4th 986, 1005-1006.
  3. Newsom was central to same-sex marriage saga
  4. Newsom seeks to get beyond Prop. 8 fiasco in quest to become governor
  5. 'Historic' campaign scored Prop 8's win in California
  6. "Prop 8 Threat: Fresno Police close to Arrest", by Andres Araiza, KFSN-TV30/Fresno, October 31, 2008
  7. "Prop 8 Death Threats", by Amanda Perez, KFSN-TV30/Fresno, October 31, 2008
  8. California election exit poll data, accessed 2009-08-20
  9. New Yorkers Protest Gay Marriage Ban Outside Mormon Church
  10. "Gay marriage a gift to California’s economy", Los Angeles Times,, June 2, 2008
  11. Itzkoff, Dave. "Marc Shaiman on 'Prop 8 — The Musical'", The New York Times, December 4, 2008
  12. "Star-studded Web video protests Prop 8 – Spoof musical's blockbuster cast includes Jack Black as Jesus", Associated Press,, December 4, 2008
  13. Ruling in Strauss, et al. v. Horton and related cases, nos. S168047, S168066, S168078, California Supreme Court, May 26, 2009
  14. On Top Magazine, "Calif. Campaign to Restore Gay Marriage Alters Course", July 2009
  15. Scan of Initiative from California Attorney General website.

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