November 6th, 2008
05:13 PM ET

Prop. 8: We’ll be back in California. And we’ll win. You can depend on it.

Matt Coles
ACLU Director of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project

After the California Supreme Court’s brilliant, inspiring decision in May, Tuesday's loss at the polls is a bitter pill. That it follows all the wonderful stories of people getting married, and the Connecticut decision that seemed to put us on a roll, makes it all the more difficult to accept.

But indulge me for a look back in history. In 1982, we passed a domestic partnership law in San Francisco, the country’s first. Despite having carefully laid the groundwork, it was vetoed without warning, and a vote essential to an override defected the next day. It took us seven years to get it passed again. And when we did, our opponents got enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 30 days. We ran one of the most expensive local initiative elections in California history. And we lost, 50.5 to 49.5. In 1990, we put it back on the ballot again and won. But the next year, we had to defend it again against an attempted repeal initiative.

Even in famously liberal San Francisco, we had to go through the process of trying to pass a simple domestic partnership law five times, and we lost twice. If you run up an unbroken string of victories in any battle for civil rights, that simply means you waited too long to get to work. Change that matters is never smooth or easy.

It will be important to go over the campaign carefully and learn from our mistakes. But we need to resist the temptation to blame ourselves for the loss. The perfect campaign hasn’t been run anywhere yet. Thousands of very good people worked their hearts out on this, and they deserve our thanks. The victims of an injustice should never be blamed for failing to end it unless they don’t try. And you can’t say that we didn't try, and try damn hard.

We didn’t lose by much. Eight years ago, on virtually the same question, we could only get 39 percent. On Tuesday, we got over 48. While our opponents may be celebrating now, the handwriting is on the wall. They won’t be able to hold on much longer. There are other states where we’ll be able to get marriage in the next few years, and others where we’ll get domestic partnerships and civil unions.

We’ll be back in California. And we’ll win. You can depend on it.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Pam

    I live in California and the people against Prop 8 did not fight dirty like the other side. Pro 8 people exploited children against their parents wishes in political ads. They lied and used fear. What I find interesting this is coming from the Mormans and Catholics who given the pedophiles that have freely operated within their ranks one would think they would have better things to do then hate and attack gays.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  2. Eva

    In watching your show tonight, I was interested to hear that you never mentioned what Obama's view on gay marriage actually is. During the Vice Presidential debate, I remember hearing Joe Biden say that although the Obama presidency would be for equal rights in hospital visitation and things like that, that they would not be in favor of gay marriage. So I don't think Obama didn't get involved in Prop 8 because he was busy, but because he was in favor of it.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Annette of Aurora, CO

    Anderson, This is not a black v. white or even a young v. old issue. It is a moral and religious issue. The majority of people in California have voted to ban gay marriage and that is what should be done. Gays need to keep their sexual preference in their bedroom. They need to stop trying to make the rest of us support their sinful behavior, period. Shame on the court for ruling gay marriage lawful in the first place.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  4. dana

    Thanks for the segment, but you didn't include many facts.
    Showing a sound bite from someone saying that gays and lesbians have the same rights is false.
    When a domestic partnered couple rents a car one can drive and the other must be vetted to drive the care and pay a fee.
    With domestic partners, one can pay for health care coverage for their partner. But, they are not considered next of kin and the parents of one has the right to keep them on life support against the ailing persons wishes. At the expense of their partner.
    These are just two of the thousand rights gays and lesbians are not 'privileged' to have.
    Please inform the public on the difference between domestic partner benefits and marriage.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  5. De

    I live in California and I voted no on prop 8 but i can tell you right now that it wont pass any time soon. Gays dont deserve the discrimination but from what I know is that the main issue with this is the fact that its called marriage. People feel marriage has been defined already and for some they think God will strike them down if they vote yes. So I dont see it passing unless they find a word other then calling it marriage. Crazy but true.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  6. David

    This is truly sickening. I see all this about same sex marriage, but what you people fail to realize is that is that the reason why this will never be accepted in this day in age is because it was wrong at the dawn of mankind. It states it in the Bible Man Shall Not Lay With Man, and it is truly a shame to the people who witness these false unions, its a shame to the those who attempt to take this vows and it is a shame that any Minister or Man of God can call himself true to the word knowing what the Book says and continue to proceed with this sacred union in the eyes of the Lord.

    November 6, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  7. Mark Collins

    Why has this country not made the distinction between marriage, as defined by religious doctrine, and the partnership that defines political/social responsibilities, possibly using separate terms?
    Separation of church and state is more pertinent to our constitution in this instance that in most others. By defining in the law a legal partnership as such and then allowing each church to define it as they see fit will preserve civil rights and protect the constitution. ( A fifty+ year old white Christian heterosexual male)

    November 6, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  8. Al

    I like all the comments that are invoking the constitution, very smart of you gays, I guess your having a hard time swallowing the fact that in the constitution it also talks about voting and majorities, you are a minority, you lost, get over it. In the end you always lose.

    November 6, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  9. DP, New York


    Human rights have nothing to do with the majority vote. Stop spreading ignorance!

    November 6, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  10. Steve Mc, LA, California

    It really hurt being voted a second class citizen today.

    But I am grateful for the 48% that voted for sanity and I know we will prevail in time. It is huge progress....and something I could only have dreamed of in Georgia, where I lived until recently.

    I still hope the courts have the courage to jump in and say, this vote itself was unconstitutional, a majority voting to take away the rights of a minority. That's not how it should work, especially in a country with an Obama administration.

    November 6, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  11. Chamieka

    Lmao @ Jim. That was the most ignorant-truthful comment Ive heard in awhile. Alot of what you said was true, I guess the hateful way you said it was what got me. We could say that whole sentence about straight people. These people should have the right to love whomever they want. We do.

    November 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  12. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    I guess I have to agree with you on this one. Yes majority does rule and President Obama who unlike G W Bush in 2000 is elected with a majority of popular as well as electoral votes will likely be in a position to appoint two supreme court justices during his term with a solidly Democratic Congress. I have no dount the gay marriage issue will wind up in the hands of the US supreme court again at some time, but that aside there is something mughty strangr about this vote considering the Democrats won landslides in all other California contests. I find it very hard to believe that so many Obama suporters are anti-gay that they passed this ban.

    November 6, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  13. Al

    on the events of prop2 in FLorida and Prop 8 n California being defeated. with the proof that over 80% of AA's and Latinos voted for Obama and Agaignst the props we as LGBT family memebrs need to take action.

    We as LGBT members Need to Hit the streets in Protest. Not ONLY vocally and organized but hit them where it will do the most hurt. thier Pocket books.
    If Every LGBT memeber BOYCOTTS EVERY non LGBT Store, Restruarants, etc and NOT give them any of our Monies, If EVERY LGBT Memeber NOT show up for work for two or more Days this would hurt them just as Much.

    WE need to get off of our ASSES and Organize like the AA's did in the 50's-60's. We need to tell our politicians that they WONT get our votes HANDED to them on a SILVER Platter like we have done every year. NO MORE until our voices are heard adn promises Kept we need to Put our foot down even more put our feet up ther asses to get things done for us.
    We can NO longer sit back and wait for everyone else to do our dirty work, We need to take care of it our self.
    Anyone who knows of ANY one in the CLOSET no matter of thier Social status we need to OUT them the more voices the better.


    in OBAMA'a own words he DID NOT Help OUR Cause in fact he aided in he defeat of the two props with is comments. of Marriage is between a man and a woman"
    how did this help US?? it didnt what will Obama do for the LGBT Community?? probally the same as with the props NOTHING,,

    Make DIVORCE and Infedilety Illegal that would TRULY PROTECT MARRIAGE

    November 6, 2008 at 8:59 pm |
  14. Rev. Dr J.L. Miller

    In our country today many are comforting individuals who struggle with immoral lifestyles and choices. To large issues, and two that we will likely play roles in this election year are Abortion and Homosexuality. Since this article is devoted to God’s word there is no reason to dwell on the currently terrible state that our country is in on these two issues, but it is relevant to look at how these issues have come to light in this country. In our country today many are comforting individuals who struggle with immoral lifestyles and choices. In our country we protect animals, we give rights to
    criminals, and many more non-logical things. Yet, when it comes to an unborn human being, one that has a beating heart and a soul, there is no right for life! Many say that abortion is not condemned in the Bible. The many are wrong (Matthew 7:13-14). The term abortion does not appear in the Bible but the definition sure does. (Revelation 21:8) “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” The Bible states that it is the word of the Lord we will be judged by (John 12:48)! The school system is even teaching that Homosexuality is a “alternate lifestyle”, shame on them, it is sin. Sin is transgression of the Law (I John 3:4). The price of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). God destroyed two cities for the practice of Homosexuality (Genesis chapters 18-19). Some might correctly state that we are no longer under the Old Law (Romans 7:1-6, Ephesians 2:15, and Matthew 26:28). Yet, we
    are reminded of this in the New Testament as well. (II Peter 2:6) “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.”

    November 6, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  15. Cory

    This country was founded on being a democracy. The citizen's of Arizona, Florida and of California voted. They don't want same sex marriage in their state's. You should drop it and move "preferably to Canada" if you don't like it. MAJORITY RULES IN AMERICA! Do you people not know that or are you from another planet. Sorry but that's how it works.

    November 6, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  16. Jim

    Matt- You will learn the hard way- You will win the battle but what profit is it if you loose your soul & have the blood of thousands on your hands for all eternity.- You refuse to learn the lessons of history – Be prepared to suffer the Consequences- You will have no one to blame on Judgement day than your self.

    November 6, 2008 at 7:36 pm |
  17. Fabrizio

    California shocked the country many times in good and bad and so it will go on doing in the future.
    What is gravely at stake is still the right given to groups of people to prescribe limits on their private lives, which the win on prop 8 would put in words so clear that discrimination could not spell better on any other constitution of the union.

    November 6, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  18. Sue, Billerica, MA

    Shouldn't the ninth amendment protect gay rights like marriage??? And aren't we not a democracy alone but a constitutional democracy that not only legislates the will of the majority but must also protect the rights of minorities even if they are opposed in those rights as the majority – so if straight people can marry who they wish, then why can't gay people marry who they wish? Aren't they essentially making you a second class citizenry more so than a minority and isn't that unconstitutional???

    November 6, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  19. Ian England

    Prop 8. Small minded bigots, homophobes, and racists are still aplenty even in SoCal. They should all go back to Utah

    November 6, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  20. K

    Thank-you for this, Matt!

    i have been assuring the people who've been negatively affected by the passing of Prop. 8 that California is closer than they think in legalizing same-sex marriage. continually falling forward and falling back is progress. if Prop. 8 continues to be challenged, it is progress. a setback means that california temporarily lurched forward in the direction of progression. there are so many countries in the world who aren't even close to being considered progressive in regards to gay rights. in dubai, it is an actual crime to be gay or have gay relationships, and it is actually punishable by incarceration or death. i'm from toronto, canada and only five years ago, we became the fourth of only *SIX* countries in the entire world who've legalize same-sex marriage, so this is something that will take time. keep fighting the good fight, Cali! you are almost there!!!

    November 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  21. jim

    The gays and Lesbians are sore losers. A civil union is all they should get. In my opinion 90% of the gays and lesbians are perverts. I lived in Marin County and I can definitely say that is a fact. They prey on our youth to try and convert them to be fruitcakes. ACLU shoul be put out of business.

    November 6, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  22. Cindy

    Well the people of California have spoken. They do not want gay marriage to be legal there. The majority in this country rules. That is how it works.


    November 6, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  23. Nate

    The supporters of gay marrage is nothing but an unrully group of little kids who fail to learn that being gay, is a Learned Behavior, and is an unnatural act. To santify gay marrage is no different than santifying any and everything any group of people think they want, under the buss fraze of discrimination. People who think they are gay, are really sick in the head, and need some medical help, or maybe a Militety spanking, repeatidly.

    November 6, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  24. Charisse Van Horn

    Though I'm a Christian and do not believe that the lesbian lifestyle would be appropriate for me, I can't imagine how it would feel to marry the person you love, then find out your marriage was over- due to a legal determination.
    I can only imagine that those who waited in line for hours to "marry" their partners would feel extreme pain and devastation to be told they weren't married. Personally, I don't feel it is my business to determine whether someone else marries.

    November 6, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  25. Kristien,Antwerp, Belgium


    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one day the people who voted for Prop 8 will see how stupid they are.
    I'm not gay myself, but I simply can not understand how anyone can be against gay marriage. I just don't understand why!

    I'm happy that I live in a country were everyone has the freedom to marry the person that they love and I hope that one day you can say the same!!

    Don't give up!! Kristien

    November 6, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  26. Melissa, Los Angeles

    And I'll be there to support that win!

    I ask all those who voted Yes for Prop 8 as to whether or not they are or currently in the process of divorce. If so then you're a hypocrite for not abiding by your religious oath to God that til death do you part. How shameful you would then place your moral and religous judgement on others who also simply want to love and have the same rights as a you to marry. If marriage was so sacred to you, why did you not abide by your wedding vows?

    November 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  27. Billy

    If Californians were serious about "protecting" marriage, they would ban divorce. It seems that a very large percentage of those who vow "til death do we part" are parting ahead of schedule.

    November 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm |