November ballot measure could halt same-sex marriage revelry

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With the drama and excitement of Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in the rear-view mirror, all eyes have turned toward November and the potential for its undoing.

The Republican-dominated court ruled that the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage violated the California Constitution. But a statewide ballot measure recently submitted to the secretary of state by conservative organizations seeks to amend the constitution to only recognize marriages between a man and a woman as valid.

If the amendment were to pass — it would only need a simple majority to do so, according to the Secretary of State’s Office — the historic ruling would effectively be reversed.

In 2000, California voters approved Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, with 61.4 percent of the vote.

Attitudes toward same-sex marriage in California have changed sinc then, although there is still not a majority of support for gay marriages. A 2007 poll found that 49 percent of the state’s voters opposed “allowing gay and lesbian couples to be legally married,” with 45 percent saying they were in favor.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said he doubted that the issue would add voters to an already expected large November turnout.

“Without an initiative on the ballot, you’d expect 75 to 80 percent of registered voters [for a presidential election],” Baldassare said. “It’s hard to say any initiative brings any more out.”

One factor that could influence whether a same-sex marriage ban could pass in November is which candidates end up running for the White House.

As of the April election, 43.5 percent of the state’s registered voters were Democrats, 32.8 percent Republican, 4.4 percent other, and 10.3 percent declined to state.

While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has secured the Republican nomination, Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., continue to vie for the Democratic nomination.

David Karol, an assistant politics professor at UC Berkeley, said that Obama would bring out young voters, who are more tolerant of gay marriage, although the black senator would also draw out blacks, who are less so.

If the state begins to offer same-sex marriages before November, voters might not be as likely to choose to take away rights they saw granted, University of San Francisco politics professor Corey Cook said.

Same-sex marriage opponents have said they will ask the justices for a stay of their decision until after the fall election.

dsmith@sfexaminer.com

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