Online extra: Wedding Bell Blues: New poll shows soft support for same-sex marriage
by Seth Hemmelgarn
New Field Poll results released today show that by a 51 percent to 42 percent margin, California voters support allowing same-sex couples to marry.
However, when voters are offered three alternatives – allowing same-sex couples to marry, allowing civil unions but not same-sex marriage, or granting no legal recognition to same-sex relationships – only 44 percent of voters favor the marriage option.
The survey was completed June 22-July 5 among a representative sample of 1,390 registered voters in California. Interviewing was conducted by telephone. The maximum sampling error estimates for results based on the overall registered voter sample is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. Many of the results are similar to what's been seen in other polls in recent years.
Equality California issued a statement Tuesday morning emphasizing the overall results, saying the 51 percent figure represents a two-point jump from last year.
[Updated: Tuesday afternoon, EQCA's marriage director Marc Solomon told the Bay Area Reporter that he wasn't surprised by the poll results.
"Overall, it's good news," Solomon said.
He acknowledged the drop off in support when people were given choices between marriage and domestic partnerships, but said EQCA is working to address that.
"Number one, when we go back to the ballot, we'll have the option of voting yes or no. We're asking do you support marriage or not," he said. "Second, we're going to be doing the education work – we are doing the education work – and explaining the difference between domestic partnership and marriage."
Solomon said EQCA, in its ongoing field work, is encouraging people, especially married couples, to tell their stories.
He pointed out this is the second public poll that has support for marriage equality at or above 50 percent.
"We're making headway," he said. "It's slow, steady progress."]
One of the biggest differences of opinion can be seen when the data are broken down by age.
Majorities of voters under age 40 approve of allowing same-sex couples to marry, with those in the 18-29 age group favor by a margin of 68 percent to 27 percent. Opposition is greatest among voters 65 or older, who divide 51 percent to 42 percent.
White non-Hispanic and Latino voters are in favor while all other racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans and Vietnamese Americans are opposed.
The poll results come as people wait for U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco to issue a ruling as to whether Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution. That decision is expected any day and the matter is widely expected to ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, was passed by California voters in November 2008, by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.
To view the report, go to www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/Rls2349.pdf.
California-based, pro-marriage group goes national
If marriage equality activist and potential presidential candidate Fred Karger has his way, Lieutenant Dan Choi will be the country's first out gay chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Karger, who's set to explore a 2012 presidential bid, quipped that's what he told Choi he'd like to see when he ran into him at New York City's recent Pride parade.
Choi has become the public face of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces. Karger didn't say what Choi's response was.
Before he makes any move toward the White House, though, Karger has plenty to do.
The man behind the anti-Prop 8 group Californians Against Hate, announced recently that the group's name is changing to Rights Equal Rights.
Some, including Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, have suggested using the word "hate" to fight for same-sex marriage could be counterproductive.
Karger, 60, said including the word in the original name of his group had "served its purpose very well."
"When I started this effort, I wanted to let people know I was going to be aggressive, and unfortunately there's still many people who don't like the LGBT community," he said. "But I wanted to take a more positive tone. That's kind of the direction I'm heading, personally, and I think Californians Against Hate has been hugely successful in slowing down our opponents."
Karger spoke with the Bay Area Reporter on Friday, July 16, which was the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the boycott he helped launch against hotelier Doug Manchester in San Diego.
The Californians Against Hate site featured a "dishonor roll" of Prop 8 contributors, and was launched around the same time that Karger called for the Manchester boycott.
Manchester, whose properties include the Grand Hyatt in San Diego, gave $125,000 to support what eventually became Prop 8, which California voters passed in November 2008 to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. The boycott reportedly resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The mission of Rights Equal Rights will include "keeping an eye on the major opponents of equality," with the National Organization for Marriage and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being at the top of the list, said Karger. Members of both groups were among Prop 8's biggest backers.
Karger prompted the state of Maine to investigate NOM when he filed a complaint on its reporting practices. The anti-gay organization worked to support the same-sex marriage ban in that state, which ultimately passed in November 2009.
Most recently, California's Fair Political Practices Commission fined the Mormon Church $5,339 after Karger complained about the church's late reporting of contributions that were supportive of Prop 8.
"We'll continue to speak out when I see questionable activities on their behalf," said Karger of anti-marriage equality organizations.
He said, "I realized the name of my organization had grown beyond Californians Against Hate and it was time to adjust that" when he filed the complaint in Maine.
Karger said when the Manchester boycott started two years ago, he had originally thought it would last just four and a half months.
"I had no idea this would go on, so I have to make a few adjustments to change," said Karger.
He said the Manchester and similar boycotts have sent "a clear message to the big donors that if they want to contribute six-figure sums in these elections when it's public, we might not want to patronize their businesses."
When a ballot measure to repeal Prop 8 comes, said Karger, "It will be a very different situation" than what occurred in 2008, when Prop 8's backers raised more than $40 million to push their measure. Prop 8 opponents raised similar amounts.
"The other side will have to do major money laundering if they're going to try to keep marriage away from us," he said.
Karger, a Republican, is in the process of establishing an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential bid. He said couldn't yet affirmatively announce a bid because that would mean he'd have to start filing campaign finance reports.
However, Karger said he is developing a commercial called "Good Morning, New Hampshire."
"It's going to be a fun biographical piece to introduce New Hampshire to Fred Karger," he said. Karger, who said he hasn't yet raised any money for a presidential bid, plans to rent a house and get a car in the state. New Hampshire is the first state where presidential primaries are held.
Karger said he'd pattern himself after another GOP member – the late former President Ronald Regan.
Karger said that like himself, Reagan was "always upbeat." He expressed confidence.
"I'm not going to be raising hundreds of millions of dollars, unlike some of my potential opponents," he said, but added that he'd be participating in many of the presidential debates that will come.
He said if he does make an announcement to run for president, it would probably be sometime next year.
For more information on Karger's work to support marriage equality, visit www.rightsequalrights.com.
Pro-marriage group tracks anti-gay bus tour
Speaking of the National Organization for Marriage ...
The California-based Courage Campaign Institute has launched www.NOMTourTracker.com, an interactive blog that will include photos, videos, interviews and updates from each stop on the anti-gay group's national bus tour, as well as pro-equality counter events.
The website's home page looks like the old Yes on 8 campaign site, except the illustration of the family includes two women. It is co-sponsored by the national group, Freedom to Marry.
NOM's tour will culminate in Washington, D.C. on August 15. California isn't listed among the tour's stops.
"... NOM's desperate, pro-bigotry propaganda tour will not go unanswered," Courage Campaign founder and chairman Rick Jacobs said in a statement. "NOMtourtracker.com will expose the right wing's homophobic lies and tell the true stories both of the loving families across our country seeking equality under the law and the communities who support them."
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at email@example.com or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.