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Effort to repeal Prop 8 fails to collect enough signatures - Federal Prop 8 trial remains paused
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Effort to repeal Prop 8 fails to collect enough signatures - Federal Prop 8 trial remains paused

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

A grassroots effort to force a November 2010 ballot-box vote on repealing Proposition 8 failed to collect enough voter signatures by the April 12 deadline to get the measure on the ballot.

Groups pushing the 2010 repeal effort faced an uphill battle from the get-go because California's Gay-rights leadership refused to support the project, believing that 2012 will be a better year to return to the ballot.

The lead 2010 organization, Love Honor Cherish, did not say how many signatures it did manage to collect. Just under 700,000 valid signatures would have been needed.

"This is a heartbreaking moment," said LHC Executive Director John Henning. "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. Regrettably, Prop 8 will remain as a stain on our constitution until at least 2012, and perhaps later."

Love Honor Cherish was one of 40 mostly grassroots groups working for a 2010 vote within a coalition called Restore Equality 2010.

"Our signature-collection effort may have fallen short, but we stand tall as being the only statewide campaign that fought for repealing Proposition 8 in 2010," said Sean Bohac, chair of the Restore Equality 2010 Statewide Advisory Panel. "Our campaigners carried the torch of Harvey Milk, who showed that change only happens when we get out of the bars and into the streets. And our efforts are reflected in the new polls that show increased support for extending marriage to all Californians."

Bohac told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the number of signatures collected "was not particularly close" to the 694,354 needed.

"We won't be making it public," he said.

Recent polls by the Public Policy Institute of California and by the Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California have shown that, for the first time, a majority of Californians now support same-sex marriage - suggesting that top Gay rights groups Equality California and Courage Campaign may have made a misstep in refusing to support the 2010 effort. EQCA and Courage expressed fears that voters would not be ready to reverse themselves just two years after re-banning same-sex marriage.

But EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors said the poll results haven't caused the group to second-guess its decision.

"Equality California still believes 2012 is the right time to go to the ballot," Kors said. "Those polls were not of likely voters for the 2010 election. When you dig deeper into those polls - and our internal polls during the same time period - what's clear is young voters are the ones who move the most. And young voters make up a much larger percentage of the electorate in a presidential race [2012] than a gubernatorial race [2010], which is why the L.A. Times said, after looking at their poll numbers in the article, it's clear why Gay rights groups wanted to wait until 2012, because 2010 doesn't provide us the best opportunity to win due to voter turnout."

Restore Equality 2010 said it now will join up with the 2012 effort. Signature collecting for that project is expected to begin in the summer of 2011.

A California Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage in May 2008 and weddings began June 16, 2008. The court said preventing Gay couples from marrying violated the state constitution. Even more groundbreaking, the court also ruled that sexual orientation is a "suspect classification" - which made any type of discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutionally subject to the strictest level of scrutiny by California courts.

California governmental entities now have to prove they have a specific "compelling interest" - rather than a mere "rational basis" - when they treat GLB people differently in any way. The change made it dramatically harder for any level of government to defend itself in any arena where Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals are not treated the same as heterosexuals.

Some 18,000 same-sex couples married in California before voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage in November 2008. The California Supreme Court later ruled that Prop 8 was a valid amendment to the constitution.

A federal lawsuit led by famous attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson to overturn Prop 8 as a violation of the U.S. Constitution is ongoing in San Francisco. The trial paused on January 27 after all testimony had been heard but before closing arguments because Judge Vaughn Walker said he wanted to review the testimony before hearing the attorneys' final statements.

The conclusion of the trial apparently has been further delayed while Gay groups that ran the ballot campaign against Prop 8, who are not parties to the federal lawsuit, fight an order to turn over some of their e-mails from the campaign period.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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