Notwithstanding Brad Pitt's $100,000 donation and a new Field poll showing 55% opposition, various friends in California are circulating frantic appeals for help in defeating Prop 8, the ballot measure that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry by amending the state constitution to effectively overturn this year's ruling by the California Supreme Court. Massive amounts of money are being raised by each side. The latest figures show that proponents of this rollback of civil rights have outraised those fighting it by a roughly three to two margin: $16 million to $11 million. With slightly less than 7 weeks left before the election, I imagine that the time is fast approaching to place ad buys for the final stretch of the campaign. As Matt Coles of the ACLU has put it, this battle is eminently winnable and also eminently losable.
So, send them money – more, if you've already sent some. The lead organization is No on 8: donate here. You can even donate in honor of someone – your eccentric Aunt Tilly who lived with Miss Smithers, the gym teacher, for all those years, perhaps. Call all your relatives, friends, exes, long-lost cousins and whoever else you know who lives in California, and ask them point blank to vote no on 8.
Like the presidential election, this one seems likely to be close. People who plan to vote against marriage rights may not reveal that to pollsters; in past elections, there has been something like the racist embarrassment effect, in which white voters say they will vote for a black candidate, but then don't. That's one of the major reasons why progressives in California have such jitters. I think they are right to be worried – this is the kind of issue that can throw a monkey wrench into the predictiveness of even the best polling.
And the stakes cannot be higher. The Prop 8 showdown will cripple whichever side loses. If it's the anti-equality proponents, they will seem even more clearly to be on the losing side of history – in the majority now, but destined to go the way of Prohibition. Plus, voter ratification of what the California Supreme Court has done will drastically undercut the argument that equal marriage rights exist only because of a handful of rogue judges. If, on the other hand, the pro-equality side loses, we will have come up short in the biggest, most important, most culturally hospitable state in the union for lgbt rights. It would make legislative change in other states extremely unlikely for a very, very long time. The sense of progress being made on gay rights will turn into a giant belly flop. It will be extremely painful.
It's high noon in California.