The passage of Prop 8 in California is hurting the prospects for gay marriage elsewhere.
Take New York, for example. Last year the state assembly easily passed an SSM bill. It seemed the state senate would surely follow if Democrats gained a majority on Nov. 4, as they did with considerable financial backing from gay supporters. But now The New York Times is reporting that senate Democrats are having second thoughts about pushing for a vote in the next legislative session:
“We want to get there, but we want to get there the right way or else we risk setting ourselves back another decade,” said Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side. “I think the California proposition and the recognition that entities with large amounts of money who oppose same-sex marriage have decided to be large players in this have a lot of people going back to the drawing board.”
There may still be a vote next year but the likelihood is now only 50-50. There are many factors involved in this, but Prop 8 has not helped. Many Democratic legislators know they can count on gay support, financial and otherwise, and have little personal stake in how soon SSM comes about. At the same time, they don't want to risk a backlash from voters or face a well-funded opponent in the next election. (On the other hand, no state assembly supporter of SSM was defeated on Nov. 4.) SSM opponents proved they can mobilize significant force, in terms of money and volunteers, when it really matters.
Then there's Washington, D.C. Less than two weeks ago, an openly gay city council member was predicting a vote in favor of SSM when the council meets next in January. Now reality is setting in, and reality is taking the form of a potential referendum in a city that is almost 3/5 black, a group that voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage in California. According to the Washington Blade:
“There needs to be a discussion within the community with a diverse group of people to make sure there’s a consensus to move ahead with this,” said Darrin Glymph, vice president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest gay political group.
“Then, if you decide to go forward, you need to reach out to the entire D.C. community, including the faith community and the African-American community.”
Glymph and other black gay activists pointed to the approval by voters in California of Proposition 8 as an example of a failed strategy for reaching out to minority voters. . . .
A CNN exit poll showed that 69 percent of black voters in California supported Proposition 8; subsequent reports have suggested the number might be closer to 57 percent. . . .
With blacks making up nearly 57 percent of the population in D.C., black gay activists said gay marriage supporters must redouble their efforts to reach out to blacks and other minorities in the District.
“I don’t know if we can obtain the allies to help us defeat a referendum in the District,” said Carlene Cheatam, one of the founding members of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Men & Women.
Again, there may still be a vote in DC next year, but the prospects appear dimmer.
All of this suggests that Prop 8 has had a political effect beyond its immediate legal one. Now, not even the California Supreme Court can completely undo the nationwide damage to the movement.