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Friday, May 29, 2009

We lost Prop. 8 in 1978

By Mark Segal
PGN Publisher

We lost the Proposition 8 decision due to California property taxes and what
has led to the state’s current financial problems. The seeds for the defeat
of Prop. 8 were sown in 1978, during the California tax revolt. Californians
felt that they were paying way too much in property taxes so, in accordance
with state law, they went out and gathered the required signatures to put
what became Proposition 13 on the ballot in 1978.

Prop. 13 passed. With it was language that stated that future taxes could
not be raised unless the legislature voted for them by a two-thirds
majority. Here’s where we come in. The state, knowing that getting
two-thirds of the legislature to vote for new taxes would be almost
impossible, took Prop. 13 all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Prop.
13 folks won a major victory based on the California constitution, which
gives all rights of laws to its citizens through the ballot, those
aforementioned propositions.

So, with the Prop. 8 ruling, the state Supreme Court is only upholding what
the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on. Thus, not only do Californians
not have marriage, they also have lower taxes, which has left them almost

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news.

While the tax issue has not gotten any more popular in California, gay
marriage/marriage equality has. The publicity surrounding Prop. 8 has caused
many a skeptic to look deeply at the issue, including many in our own

And, like other topics, when you look deeply at an issue, you change the way
you think about it. In this case, that’s to our adversaries’ disadvantage:
You note that their objections are all false and that marriage equality
changes nothing in their lives or the religions they follow. There is no
better proof for that than the Mormon church, which was one of the most
outspoken supporters of Prop. 8. The church and the ensuing controversy of
their involvement has begun to shift on the issue. Mormons who supported
marriage equality before Prop. 8 worried about excommunication. Now the
church says there is room for members of the faith who believe in marriage
equality but understand that the church does not. Now that’s not a seismic
move, but it is movement. So if the Mormons have changed, what about
less-religious-minded people?

There is little doubt with another proposition we will be victorious — as
long as we do not take any community support for granted. And with that
comes some bragging rights: If California accomplishes this, it will be the
first state that gains marriage equality through the ballot. And it would
take a powerful tool away from the right-wingers.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher and former president of the National Gay
Newspaper Guild. He can be reached at

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