The record turnout of black and Hispanic voters played a key role in the victory of President-elect Barack Obama, but in California that same racial and ethnic factor also was instrumental in the passage of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that declares marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
When the voting was over, Proposition 8 had won in 42 of 58 counties in California and was passed by 52 percent to 48 percent.
But while Mr. Obama opposed the measure to reverse a California Supreme Court decision that declared gay marriage a right, his loyalists saved it, marshalling a victory for the traditional, conservative view of marriage.
“Really, Hispanic and black voters in California passed Proposition 8,” said Andrew Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com, which backed the amendment.
“Inner-city black neighborhoods voted stronger for Prop. 8 than the Republican suburbs. An amazing analysis,” Mr. Pugno continued.
Blacks voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8, and slightly more than half the Hispanic voters backed the measure, according to exit polls released by the National Election Pool.
And those voters were adamant.
“We shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the future of our family and our children,” said Frederick K.C. Rice, an elder with the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, which joined a thousand other black and Hispanic congregations with about 3 million followers in public support of Proposition 8.
“Religion trumps politics,” noted pollster Mark DiCamillo of the California-based Field Research Corp.
But the vote doesn’t end the matter, gay rights advocates say.
“No one’s religious beliefs should be used to deny fundamental rights to others. Our civil rights are inalienable,” said Lorri l. Jean of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, who called support of Proposition 8 “religious bigotry.”
Since the measure was passed, thousands have demonstrated in the streets of several California cities, including the 5,000 placard-carrying protesters who fanned out through Hollywood and clogged Santa Monica Boulevard. The demonstrations will continue, organizers said, with a few showbizzy trimmings.
Singer Melissa Etheridge - who wed her girlfriend, actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, in Malibu five years ago in a ceremony not sanctioned by the state - says the ban on same-sex marriage means she doesn’t have any civic duties.
“I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes, because I am not a full citizen,” she said Friday. “There is a lot I can do with the extra half a million dollars that I will be keeping instead of handing it over to the state of California. Gay people are born every day. You will never legislate that away.”
Some hope they can litigate Proposition 8 away, however.