Proposition 8—The Rematch
“We can—and we will—overturn Prop. 8 to win back marriage equality,” says a statement on the Web site of Equality California. “It will take hard work, extensive engagement of all communities, outreach to people who voted yes, research to determine the best upcoming election and exact ballot language, and significant funding.”
“The question is not if this will be back on the ballot. The question is when this will be back on the ballot,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times.
Be prepared, be very prepared: The “culture war” battle of the century may witness a sequel, and it could begin pretty soon after the California Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of Prop. 8, the ballot measure that added an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. If the Court does not overturn Prop. 8 there is the likelihood of another monumentally costly, bitter, and divisive ballot fight in 2010.
This time around, however, the goal will be to reverse Proposition 8.
To qualify for the ballot this year, Proposition 8 supporters turned in some 1.1 million signatures (690,000 were needed to qualify) and the measure passed on Election Day by a 52-48 percent margin.
TheBaptist Press’ Michael Foust raised an interesting question: WWOD (What Will Obama Do) if a measure attempting to reverse Proposition 8 is placed on the 2010 ballot—the year the next gubernatorial elections will be held? According to Foust, such an initiative:
Could put President Obama in an uncomfortable position. Obama says he opposes gay marriage, although he also opposed Prop. 8, calling it “divisive and discriminatory.” If Californians voted to overturn Prop. 8, Obama either would have to 1) remain neutral, 2) oppose it and anger homosexuals within his base or 3) support it and, by extension, support gay marriage—which would be an historic step. Exit polls showed that nationally, 70 percent of homosexuals voted for him.
[Gay] leaders are discussing whether Obama will reverse course and publicly state his support for gay marriage during his administration. He and the leading homosexual groups agree on every other major issue, including repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. Overturning DOMA could force every state to recognize gay marriages from states such as Massachusetts. Obama says he supports civil unions, which grant same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage.
In a live blog with other homosexual leaders Nov. 20, Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said she believes Obama will come out for gay marriage during his time in the White House, “especially if we can persuade other federal elected officials to stand up for marriage equality—which should have happened long ago and is long overdue.” Nadine Smith, executive director for Equality Florida, agreed, saying, “I think he knows [his position] isn’t logical or justifiable.”
In another development, on Tuesday, December 2, Members of California’s senate and assembly introduced a resolution opposing the passage of Proposition 8. The resolution is a public decree, is not actual legislation, and has no law-binding power.
California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George in Religious Right’s Crosshairs
When the California Supreme Court voted 4-3 on May 15 to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, it signaled the revival of the culture wars in California. Over the past six to eight months, the bitter, divisive and ultra-expensive battle over Proposition 8, the ballot initiative passed by the state’s voters in November, which approved a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, took center stage.
Yet even while the Prop. 8 campaign was unfolding, some on the Christian Right were thinking about the future: How to punish the four so-call “activist judges” that voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Talk within the religious right focused on Chief Justice Ronald George, the Justice who had taken the lead in framing the court’s May decision. However, while a recall campaign would surely stir up the base’s animus against “judicial activists,” it would certainly be costly and, it might not be necessary. After all, George will be coming up for a reconfirmation vote in two years.
On the face of it George, who, according to a mid-August report from the Associated Press, “has spent more than half his life cultivating an image of a cautious jurist and earning a reputation as a politically skilled court administrator,” appears to be an unlikely target. However, as soon as he was branded a “judicial activist,” all bets were off. “I really felt that as chief justice I had to have the broad shoulders because I knew there would be substantial controversy about it,” George said in an interview when asked about the May Court decision.
Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, didn’t mask his feelings: “Ron George should be thrown out for voting for gay marriage. He has a very radical view of what’s a family.”
First appointed to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court in 1972, by Governor Ronald Reagan, George has enjoyed the support of four governors including Republican Governor Pete Wilson, who appointed George to the top state court in 1996.
Prior to the notoriety George received in May, he apparently was seen as an administrator that affected change in the court’s processes: “He shifted funding of the system from individual counties to the state, ensuring consistent budgets,” the AP reported. “He also combined the Byzantine municipal and superior court systems into one unified branch of government.”
There were signs of George’s “liberal leanings”: “In 1995, as an associate justice, he wrote the high court’s majority opinion holding that private country clubs that conduct business with the public must allow women to join,” the Associated Press reported. Two years later, “he wrote the decision allowing girls under 18 to undergo abortions without their parents’ permission,” an issue that infuriated Christian conservative activists.
In 1998, George raised $700,000 to defeat a campaign to unseat him. He easily kept his seat, winning 75 percent of the vote.
Shortly after the November vote, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments about the constitutionality of Proposition 8, while at the same time refusing to stay its implementation.
In late November, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told CBNNews.com that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Proposition 8, “you will see a mobilized group like you have never seen in the state of California… there are grounds for a recall… We have an oligarchy, an oligarchy in judges’ role in the state of California.”
California is no stranger to recall elections, or the removal of judges from office via the ballot box. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis was recalled, which led to the election of current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In November 1986, Rose Bird became the first Chief Justice to be removed from that office by a majority of the state’s voters. At the same time, Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin were also removed. The major issue at the time was the justice’s opposition to the death penalty.
Ted Costa, a recall effort election expert working with the group People’s Advocate, pointed out that if such an effort was launched, California voters should prepare themselves for a “barn-burner of an election—the biggest thing this state has ever seen,” he said. Costa told CBNNews.com that “several supporters of Prop 8 have already contacted him about a possible recall of justices Ronald George, Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar, and Carlos Moreno.”
Meanwhile in early December, OneNewsNow, the American Family Association’s online news service, reported that gay activists were beginning to prepare for a recall effort: “Activists want to build a one-million-dollar war chest to defend any judge threatened with recall for ruling in favor of homosexual marriage.”
“I don’t know of any recall effort that’s going on, but they might be thinking about Ron George, the chief justice who was the deciding vote in favor of homosexual marriages on May 15,” Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for Children and Families told OneNewsNow. “George is the only California Supreme Court Justice up for reelection in 2010.”
American Family Association Glides into Fourth Decade
End-of-the-year fundraising pitches are commonplace in the world of nonprofit organizations. In a recent “Personal Note,” the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder and chairman of the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association, thanked his supporters and extended an invitation to them to become one of 100,000 contributors to the organization’s work.
In many of these appeals, impending doom takes center stage. However, in contrast to the usually fiery missive, this year’s note bore an uncharacteristically measured tone: “It is our responsibility to do our best to stand opposed to the agents of secularism and humanism and leave the outcome to the Lord. He has not called us to win every battle, as much as we would like to do that. He has called us to be faithful. And that we can do.”
From its modest beginnings—an office at his “kitchen table” in 1977—“to a national platform for traditional family values,” Wildmon’s AFA has been on the frontline of the nation’s “culture wars.” Over the years, it has grown and prospered. In his report-back to supporters, Wildmon pointed out some of the organization’s successes during the past year. He noted that the AFA had grown with the times, adapting to new political realities and using new technologies: Where once the major means for communication with his supporters was through a series of direct-mail letters and print publications, now the AFA reaches hundreds of thousands through e-mail alerts, online newsletters, its OneNewsNow news service, and its radio broadcasts heard on AFA’s 195-station national radio network. The AFA’s report noted that its Web site “is attracting some 1.2 million visitors each month, which reflects a growth of over 400% in the past 12 months.” The AFA claims that “over two million people can immediately share their opinions with policymakers and corporations simple by responding to one of the online-focused initiatives.”
Wildmon’s group claimed victory in its boycotts of the Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s, both of which “backed out of their promotion of the homosexual agenda.” As might be expected, however, AFA’s number one achievement was the passage of California’s Proposition 8—the anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment.
Wycliffe USA’s “The Last Languages Campaign”: A donor that wishes to remain anonymous has given $50 million to the ministry to be used for “The Last Languages Campaign,” an effort aimed at “translating the Bible into the remaining 2,400 or so language groups worldwide which do not have their own translation,” OneNewsNow reported in late November. “We have been involved in this movement for about 75-years as an organization,” Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe said. “And as we have come into the last few years, we are recognizing that the number of Bible translation needs around the world is starting to drop rapidly and we really believe that this generation could be the generation that sees the last Bible translation need started.” The project recognizes that “Literacy has a huge impact within a community, particularly when you work with women,” Creson pointed out. “Women will actually become the change agents, not only within their families, but also in the community—if you can give them access to information. If you can do that in their mother tongue, it’s much more powerful.”
Breakaway Episcopalians—Part II: As discussed here last week, conservative clergy have decided to form an entity separate from the official Episcopal Church. According to the Christian Science Monitor, a “network of groups from the United States and Canada… [prepared to] unveil a draft constitution for a unified entity that they hope will be recognized by Anglicans elsewhere in the world.” The newspaper reported that the group was “encouraged to take this step by a group of leaders in the global Anglican Communion who say the Episcopal Church (TEC)—the US branch of Anglicanism—has abandoned traditional Christian teaching and practice.” Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who heads the network, said “This has been our aim since 2004, and it’s been the call of the [conservative global leaders] that it was time for the rest of the Anglican world to recognize an orthodox province here in the States.”
Jill Stanek’s List of “Counterfeit Pro-Lifer[s]: In a recent column for WorldNetDaily, Stanek, head of the anti-abortion group BornAliveTruth, listed Team Obama’s “counterfeit pro-lifer[s].” It includes Mara Vanderslice, “religious outreach director for the 2004 Kerry campaign and founder of Matthew 25 Network”; Doug Kmiec, Pepperdine University law professor “who was refused communion for supporting Obama”; Nicholas Cafardi, “who was forced to resign from the Board of Franciscan University over his support of Obama”; Pastor Joel Hunter, “who prays with Obama and gave the closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention”; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; the pro-abortion group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; “progressive evangelical” Jim Wallis and Sojourners; Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals; and liberal Jesuit Rev. Thomas Reese, “who was forced to resign as editor in chief from the Catholic magazine America for promoting liberal ideology.”