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social sciences

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Proposition 8 (California)  
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The campaign against Proposition 8 raised slightly more than $43 million.

Donations flooded into both campaigns from all fifty states and more than 20 foreign countries. The $83 million spent in the campaign set a new record for money spent on any social policy initiative in American history.

Sponsor Message.

The bitterly contested campaign included homophobic assertions that allowing same-sex couples to marry would destroy or redefine the institution of marriage, and that it would somehow harm children. Some religious leaders, such as Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Community Church, who would later give the Invocation at the 2008 Inauguration of President Obama, compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.

Despite polls indicating that Proposition 8 would be rejected, on November 4, 2008 it passed by a margin of 52% for and 48% against. It is believed that the late emphasis by the proponents of Proposition 8 on the supposed dangers of teaching about same-sex marriage in schools may have turned the tide.

Aftermath of the Passage of Proposition 8

After it became clear that Proposition 8 had been passed by the voters of California, a stunned and bitterly disappointed glbtq community took to the streets to protest the injustice of stripping away equality rights. Many of the protests were directed at Mormon, Catholic, and Evangelical Churches.

Other protests and boycotts were aimed at businesses whose owners had supported Proposition 8 and at some individual donors to the Proposition 8 campaign.

Large demonstrations against the passage of Proposition 8 were held in San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

The passage of Proposition 8 may be said to have sparked a new grassroots activism. Many of the volunteers who worked in the campaign against Proposition 8 expressed their displeasure at established glbtq organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and Equality California, claiming that these organizations had failed to run an effective campaign.

Among the new activists spawned by the passage of Proposition 8 were Amy Balliett and Willow Witte, who on their blog issued a call on November 7, 2008 to protest the passage of Proposition 8. The call, which spread like wildfire through the Internet, was answered dramatically. On November 15, demonstrations in support of glbtq equality were held in over 300 American cities.

The direct action group GetEqual was also formed in response to the passage of Proposition 8. Founded by Kip Williams, a Tennessee native who has been active in a number of progressive causes, and Robin McGehee, a self-styled "PTA-mom" from Fresno, California, GetEqual quickly became a pivotal player in grassroots protests against glbtq inequality.

Williams and McGehee co-organized the National March for Equality in October 2009 and were especially visible in the protests against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

Another organization that emerged in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 is the Courage Campaign. Although the Courage Campaign was in existence before the Proposition 8 defeat and is not focused exclusively on gay rights or marriage equality, it has emerged as an important grassroots and netroots organizing tool. Founded by Rick Jacobs, the organization is dedicated to bringing full equality to California and the nation.

The defeat suffered by the glbtq community in the Proposition 8 campaign was a bitter one, but it also became the impetus for a new kind of activism, one that depends more on grassroots organizing and on direct action protests than on the lobbying practiced by more traditional groups.

Proposition 8 Upheld by the California Supreme Court

Proposition 8 became effective the day after the election. Same-sex marriages were discontinued in California on November 5, 2008.

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