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Derek Lactaoen, Edge LA: Prop 8: Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

Prop 8: Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind
by Derek Lactaoen, August 5, 2011

While queer Americans relish in the passage of New York’s marriage equality bill and other legislative advances, LGBT Californians remain somber.

Proposition 8, being the legislative and fundraising buzzword for the state’s marriage equality front, has somewhat slipped out of the mainstream media. Since the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-passed proposition that bans nuptials for same-sex couples in 2009, progress has been slow and some argue mostly out of the public eye.

Terry Angel Mason wrote an article titled “How Allowing Gays to Marry in California Could Rescue a State Teetering on the Brink of Bankruptcy” hoping to “embarrass the 9th circuit court” and spur them to do something. Mason, who is a Los Angeles-based HIV/AIDS and gay rights activist, said Prop 8 has been pushed to the back burner and is out of sight for many Californians.

That’s true for Arcata resident Shaun Peterson. He said that interest in the case after so long and its coverage in media have dwindled.

“I would guess that like me, many people feel like no matter where prop 8 ’is’ it’s out of our hands,” said Peterson.

Prop 8 continues to spur fiery debate in the courts, even if it is not on the front pages of the state’s newspapers or in the tweets of every queer Californian who continues to follow the ongoing legal twists and turns.

In a complicated tangle of lawsuits, appeals, appeals on appeals and court levels, Prop 8 currently sits in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Project Marriage continues to fight for standing in the court system to defend their appeal of now retired Judge Vaughn Walker’s Aug. 2010 decision that found the referendum was unconstitutional. This decision left Prop 8 supporters to defend the voter-approved referendum themselves. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown, who was the state’s Attorney General when Walker issued his ruling, both said they would not oppose it.

The California Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on Sept. 6 and will have 90 days to decide whether or not state law allows proponents of a ballot measure the authority to defend that measure in court when state officials refuse to.

Roland Palencia, executive director of Equality California, remains hopeful that the justices will rule in his organization and other Prop 8 opponents’ favor.

If the court rules against Prop 8 proponents, Vaughn’s ruling stands. If the justices rule in favor of Prop 8 supporters, however, California’s LGBT activists would have to return to the ballot in Nov. 2012.

Palencia said that the queer community is split on deciding which course of action is the most hopeful.

“There are those who want to go back to the ballot,” he said. “We don’t know how long the case will take. There’s the appeal, then there’s the appeal on the appeal.”

Others see fighting through the court system as a battle that’s going well, and at least making some progress.

Marriage Equality Could Generate $385 Million for Cash-Strapped California
But while Prop 8 works through the courts and possibly onto the ballot next fall, now, more than ever, might be the best time to look at what equal marriage laws could do for California.

New York expects to see $400 million in revenue over the next three years after passing gay marriage legislation. Some estimates indicate that the marriage equality at the federal level could generate up to $17 billion for the country’s economy. Weddings are a $70 billion industry in the United States.

As California’s economy sees dark times and as the rest of the country grapples with debt default aversion, sluggish economic growth and stubbornly high unemployment rates; revenue of any sort is certainly a good thing.

Mason said that California stands to gain $385 million from marriage equality in the Golden State-that’s enough to cover all cuts made the California State University System this year, and then some.

Palencia agrees that the economy is a good selling point for marriage equality legislation in Sacramento, but he cautioned it shouldn’t be the focus. Rather, he’d like to see this battle one on its own merit: equal rights for everyone.

“Prop 8 is still an open wound,” he said. “And we want to keep fighting for marriage equality.”

Derek is a graduate of Humboldt State University in the coastal redwoods of California. He’s a journalist, a runner and a hesitant outdoorsman who enjoys morning coffee, travel and singing in the car. Check outwww.heytherederek.wordpress.comfor more. 

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