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To Repeal or Not to Repeal? Prop 8 Town Hall Report Part I: A New Poll.

Prop 8 trial

An interesting guest piece from jpmassar reporting from the EQCA town halls. The author’s views are his own -Adam

Originally published at DailyKos

By jpmassar

I attended an Equality California town hall last night in San Francisco, the first of many to be held around the state. The point of the town hall was to present information about and hear opinions on whether a repeal of Proposition 8 — the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages in California — should be put in the November, 2012 ballot.

In Part I am reporting the results of a poll David Binder Research conducted which was commissioned by Equality California and presented by Mr. Binder at the meeting. In Part II I’ll talk about some of what else was discussed at the meeting.

Here are some of the polling results:

Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose legalizing same sex marriage? (1)

2011 results (900 likely California voters) 5/14/11 :

Favor or Strongly Favor: 45%
Oppose or Strongly Oppose: 45%
Don’t Know: 10%

2009 results:

Favor or Strongly Favor: 47%
Oppose or Strongly Oppose: 48%
Don’t Know: 5%

Do you favor or oppose legalizing same-sex marriage providing that no religious organization or clergy would be forced to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies? (1)

2011 poll:

Favor: 47%
Oppose: 43%

Here are some crosstabs of the 2011 results:

Democrats: 59% in favor
Independents: 53% in favor
Republicans: 21% in favor

Whites: 48% in favor
African Americans: 33% in favor
Latinos: 43% in favor
Asians: 53% in favor

(1) My wording of these questions may be somewhat off because I did not write down the questions in detail, and the poll is not available (yet?) on the Equality California website.

I did not record the religious crosstabs but there was, as you would expect, an extremely high correlation between being more religious and being against repeal. In fact, as Mr. Binder pointed out, this is the overwhelmingly critical demographic distinction: the more one attends religious ceremonies, the less chance there is you support same-sex marriage.

The most fascinating part of the polling presentation was Binder’s discussion of the second question — the one with the religious exception.

While 13% of those who originally opposed repeal changed their minds when presented with this option, 10% of those originally for repeal said they would not vote for repeal with this ‘religious exception’ inserted! If those who oppose the ‘religious exception’ clause were instead counted in favor of repeal, a full 58% of California’s likely voting population would support abolishing Proposition 8.

Now, let’s be very clear: the ‘religious exception’ clause is a completely and utterly vacuous statement. No religious organization or clergyperson ever has, or ever will, be forced to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony in the United States — the first Amendment to the United States constitution, along with even a smidgen of rational thought, tells us so. A clause like this is designed solely to sway anti-repeal voters who don’t understand the difference between a civil marriage and a religious marriage ceremony, not turn off existing supporters!

This is a sad commentary on the 22% of those who support repeal straight up but quail in the face of an impotent clause. But what can you do? You can educate some of them, but that only takes you so far, given there’d be something like 1.3 million people who, by extrapolation from the polling percentages and the number of California voters, would feel that way.

This is only one poll, and that poll has a margin of error. Every other piece of evidence (national polls, other statewide polls, social trends) suggests that this poll managed to come up on the low end of the margin of error. For example, other California polls taken in the last year show:

Pollster Results Date Sample
PPP 51% legal, 40% illegal 2/11 892 registered voters
PPP 46% legal, 44% illegal 9/10 630 likely voters (2)
Field 51% support, 42% oppose 7/10 1390 registered voters

(2) The demographic characteristics of likely voters for the 2010 election is likely to be different than that for likely voters in the 2012 election, and that should generally work in favor or repeal, as more younger voters will tend to vote.

If we average the Binder poll with these three results we get:

Support: 48.25%
Oppose: 42.75%

A differential of 5.5% in favor of repeal.

What’s the bottom line? With a (vacuous) ‘religious exception’ clause, it is very likely that Proposition 8 can be repealed in November of 2012. Even if the “truth” right now is a 47%-43% split in favor of repeal with a ‘religious exception’ (and other, external evidence suggests that it should be better than that) continued demographic and social changes can only improve that result.

The organization that puts the initiative on the ballot controls the wording. By KISS (Keeping It Simple, Stupid) and including a prominent religious exception clause, California can wake up to marriage equality on November 7th, 2012.

If there is the will to do it.


  • 1. Paul  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Your commentary does not match the numbers.

    You write "13% of those who originally opposed repeal changed their minds when presented with this option". But without the option 45% oppose, but with the option, 43% oppose. So its more like 4%, not 13%. If it were 13%, then with the option, around 39% would oppose.

    You also write "10% of those originally for repeal said they would not vote for repeal with this ‘religious exception’ inserted" But without the option, 45% are in favor, but with the exception, 47% are in favor. If the exception really lost 10%, then with the exception, around 41% would be in favor. And then later on, you come up with 22%.

    None of the analysis makes any sense.

  • 2. Steve  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

    The problem with the ridiculous exception clauses is that they don't just want to them for wedding ceremonies. They also demand them for "Christian" institutions that operate entirely in the secular realm like hospitals, charities, adoption agencies and schools. That's extremely dangerous and legalized discrimination for a significant amount of the population. It allows them to completely disregard the law even though what they do has very little to do with religion.

  • 3. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:45 am


    It was originally 45-45. Binder found that

    13 out of the 45 opposed switched, getting to 58.

    10 out of the 45 in favor of repeal switched, pulling it back to 48.

    I assume the 47-43 figure, as opposed to a 48-42 figure the math suggests is roundoff.

    These were the numbers that were presented at the meeting, and they make sense to me.

    I may have been ambiguous when I used the term '13%' in the sense that is was not 13% of 45%, but rather 13% of the entire sample. Sorry. (At least that's how I understood the presentation.)

    The 22% number is simply 10/45. That is, 22% of those who were originally proponents of repeal switched (constituting 10% of the entire sample, but 22% of those who were originally for repeal).

    Hope this makes sense now.

  • 4. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:48 am


    What 'they' want is not really relevant here. The initiative proponents control the wording of the amendment.

    It certainly does matter in a legislature, as we saw in New Hampshire as the marriage equality bill was crafted, negotiated, and amended.

  • 5. Clift  |  May 21, 2011 at 7:48 am

    The majority should not be voting on the civil rights of minorities.

  • 6. Leo  |  May 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

    In an ideal world, the majority wouldn't be voting on the rights of minorities. But in this one it does, and I don't think referendums to secure minority rights should be opposed out of that principle.

    Imagine for a minute that California were a sovereign country, subject only to its own constitution. The current constitution discriminates against a minority. Would you still stand on the principle? (How would you fix it other than by majority vote? Revolution?)

    Now, California is subject to the federal constitution, and there's an argument that the federal constitution protects minorities better than the California constitution does. I hope that's true. But what if SCOTUS decides it's not? Will that be the time to let the majority vote?

  • 7. LCH  |  May 21, 2011 at 10:26 am

    @Leo. Also, the fact of the matter is that they already have voted on the rights of a minority as it stands now. We should fight it with everything we have, which might also include voting on a repeal. We can't be sure that the conservative SCOTUS would rule in our favor, if they don't then it's a monumental defeat that may not be corrected for decades. The two best outcomes are they rule for us or they refuse to hear the case..

  • 8. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Minnesota House of Representatives live debate on constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

  • 9. jpmassar  |  May 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Minnesota House passes constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. Voters to decide issue in November 2012.

    This is a ballot initiative marriage equality proponents will win.

  • 10. Chad  |  May 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I would vote opposed to repeal in 2012, even though I support the right to marry 100%, because I want the Proposition 8 trial to go before the Supreme Court of the United States. I'd be more than happy for the people of California, but I deserve to get married too, and I think that you guys need to try and not get too far ahead of the rest of us. Allow us to catch up a little! We're only as far behind as a court decision. It's not that long to wait.

  • 11. Chad  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    What we really need is a strong court decision declaring that our rights are guaronteed, and not subject to popular opinion. By gays placing their rights onto the ballot, it sends the wrong message, as if to say that we're OK putting our rights to popular discretion. I completely disagree with this action, unless the court trial ends in defeat. Then, that decision would be clarify that our rights are up to popular consent, and then we could proceed without shooting ourselves in the foot, because we'd already be shot! We'd have no choice but to demonstrate that if our rights are susject to popular approval, then we'll just have to change what's popular. We can win on both fronts, and the currect trends show that we already are. California just needs to slow down, and have a bit more patience, and remember that they don't live in a bubble. There are plenty of other gay americans whose rights also depend on what happens in that state, and we don't want you guys ruining it for the rest of us. Slow down!

  • 12. Ray  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Saying that minority rights are never voted on is being a little ignorant of history. While many civil rights battles were won with court cases, it was only possible after even more numerous instances where voters voted on them. As much as we would LIKE to live in a country where minorities are completely protected from the tyranny of the majority, we have to win one of these god damn referendums if we want to win marriage equality in this country for good.

  • 13. Chad  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Personally, I'm happy that the schedule for the Prop 8 trial got pushed back, because we totally want the proceedings for the DOMA repeal to go first. If DOMA gets repealed, then that sets the stage to provide that the result of the Prop 8 trial would be to abolish discrimination nation-wide. California needs to slow down, and take their part in the play. You don't want to dominate the stage, or you'll ruin the act.

  • 14. Chad  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Even if we lose these battle at the Supreme Court, it would be a blessing in disguise for future battles, because it would provide the most damning evidence of all that gay people are oppressed, and suffer daily discrimination. It would prove our point! We simply can't lose, and we need to remember that we are on the side of good. We are right, and they are wrong. Eventually these truths shall be accepted. Have a little faith, and stop panicking. We ALL want to win. I know that California wants to take the lead, and all the credit, but that's simply the wrong thing to do. Don't get to be so proud of yourselves.

  • 15. Chad  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I don't know whether it would be legal, or not. However, I think the people working to reapeal Proposition 8 need to start working closely together, and sharing notes, with the people working to repeal DOMA, and make this a collective effort for the cause of national repeal. We can do it! But we have to stick together, and trust each other. We need to create a timeline, and set some shared goals. Then, we all get to share in our success, and that's the best success of all.

  • 16. Elizabeth Oakes  |  May 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    If a repeal of Prop8 via ballot is successful in 2012 and the current appeal is not yet completed, would that moot the court case? If so,.wouldn't it be prudent to wait for a final determination from SCOTUS before putting the possibility of a favorable ruling at risk?

    I frankly felt that we missed an opportunity by not putting marriage equality back on the ballot for the mid-term election in 2010. Fewer people show up for mid-terms so it's often easier to win,and the polls showed we could have carried the day. But now with the court case…hmm. Maybe it all worked out somehow. Crazy.

  • 17. Mark  |  May 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I am afraid that if we vote on this in 2012, then proponents will put another proposition on the 2016 ballot, then we will have to repeal that in 2020. The only way to have closure is for this type of proposition to be ruled unconstitutional so it will not resurface in the future.

  • 18. jpmassar  |  May 22, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Every day without marriage equality is another day that couples and families go without the respect, dignity and rights they deserve.

    From the Equality California website

    Discuss vis a vis the alternative proposal that we should wait for the courts to rule one way or another, recognizing that they might ultimately rule against marriage equality, and vis a vis the alternative perspective that it is unethical for the majority to vote on the minority's rights.

  • 19. jpmassar  |  May 22, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Camp Courage is a statewide training program designed to teach the principles and skills of community organizing to activists working to restore marriage equality to California. Modeled after the Camp Obama trainings that powered neighbor-to-neighbor organizing across America in 2008, these intensive two-day programs have been instrumental in channeling the enthusiasm of activists into effective action. More than 1,200 activists have been trained in Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego, Oakland, East Los Angeles and Washington DC.

    From the Courage Campaign website

    Discuss. What was and is the point of having done and continuing to do this rather large effort if there is to be no drive to repeal Prop 8?

  • 20. karen in kalifornia  |  May 22, 2011 at 3:19 am

    I'd like to see it on the ballot again….won't be tho because of $$$$.

    Keep pushing. SCOTUS decision is to far in the future. I'll be dead.

  • 21. Kalbo  |  May 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I agree with Chad — let's get this in the courts! This case offers the best chance we have at gaining full equality.

    Also, we would be asking people to vote on our rights, which I think it some ways legitimizes the other side's tactics and arguments. If SCOTUS goes against us, well … then I guess we have to pursue that route, but it should be an absolute last resort, and by then, public opinion will be entrenched on our side in many states so we'd have a good chance at victory and not be wasting resources in battles we cannot win (or too close to call).

  • 22. BK  |  May 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I don't agree with putting our rights on the ballot before a court decision. Doing so would be jumping the gun, in my opinion. Why finance a multimillion-dollar, divisive campaign when a final court decision would occur anyways? Whether we win or lose in court, I think we should wait until that happens before pursuing popular referendums et al.

  • 23. Sagesse  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:43 am

    @jpmassar # 19

    Quite independently of how Courage Campaign gets involved in any ballot initiative to repeal Prop 8 in California, I think Courage should deploy its Camp Courage program in Minnesota over the next 18 months to support Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the marriage amendment there.

  • 24. David Henderson  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

    @BK (22), I'm in favor of pursuing multiple tracks. That's how LCR has fought DADT: Working with Republicans in Congress to get it repealed, but pursuing the court case at the same time. Without LCR's work in Congress, the repeal plan would have not been enacted last year, and if the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ever sign off on repeal, it could be gone before all of the appeals in the court case are finished. On the other hand, if they drag their feet, there's another track that continues forward.

  • 25. jpmassar  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:57 am


    This case offers the best chance we have at gaining full equality.

    It also offers the best chance of having the Supreme Court assert with finality that marriage is not a fundamental right when applied to same-sex couples.

    Reward and risk.

  • 26. jpmassar  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:59 am


    The opposite point of view asserts that it would be unethical not to use every available means to get this overturned as quickly as possible.

    "Every day without marriage equality is another day that couples and families go without the respect, dignity and rights they deserve."

  • 27. LCH  |  May 23, 2011 at 3:08 am

    @jpmassar #24 Agreed. per the polls, MN is one that we have a very good chance of winning if we strike pre-emptively rather than be on the defensive side of another campaign of fear.

  • 28. David  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Binder's polls have consistently been an outlier on this issue. His numbers do not even square with his 2008 survey of the Prop 8 electorate. His latest poll has Democratic support for SSM at 11 points lower and Black support at 25 percent lower than it was in Nov. 2008, when effective anti-SSM ads were blanketing the airwaves. See DBR Survey 11/6-16/2008. And as you point out, they don't jibe with any other polling in CA. They also don't jibe with the latest national polls, unless you believe that CA is more opposed to SSM than an average sample which includes voters from TX, AL, GA, and MS.

    So what is going on? It could be that Binder is right and everyone else is wrong. This would also mean that CA is uniquely immune from the trend seen in all national polls as well as state polls in NY, NH, NJ, MA, MN, IA, VA, WA, RI, and DE, among others. It could be that Binder is wrong as the result of sampling error. Or it could be that EQCA commissions these polls from Binder for the purpose of dampening demands to return to the ballot. EQCA commissioned a similar poll in 2009, when they released a report strongly opposing a repeal effort in 2010. Now they are opposed to a repeal effort in 2012, and they roll out another anomalous poll, again from Binder.

    For the record, I oppose a repeal effort in 2012, since I think that it is pointless to spend $50 million when we have a very good chance of sustaining the court ruling and when that money should be deployed to defend our allies like Mike Gronstal in Iowa and to defeat our opponents like Sam Arora in Maryland. But even though I agree with EQCA, I think it is sleazy for them to go through this dog and pony show when it is abundantly clear that they have no intention of pursuing a repea regardless. If they were at all serious about this, they would not be turning to it in May of 2011.

  • 29. zapatillas supra  |  May 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm

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  • 30. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  May 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    […] I can be found here. The author’s views are his own […]

  • 31. David Henderson  |  May 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    [My earlier comment has been awaiting moderation for awhile, so I'm just going to try reposting this.]

    @BK (22), I’m in favor of pursuing multiple tracks. That’s how LCR has fought DADT: Working with Republicans in Congress to get it repealed, but pursuing the court case at the same time. Without LCR’s work in Congress, the repeal plan would have not been enacted last year, and if the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ever sign off on repeal, it could be gone before all of the appeals in the court case are finished. On the other hand, if they drag their feet, there’s another track that continues forward.

  • 32. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  May 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    […] coverage of the San Francisco town hall, see JPMassar’s pieces here and here. Courage’s Arisha Michelle Hatch will also be writing a piece with her thoughts on […]

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