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How to lose California
by Diane Silver - SGN Contributing Writer

If I wanted to ban same-sex marriage in California and were leading the campaign to pass Proposition 8, I know exactly what I'd do. I'd create the perfect political storm.

First, I'd tap every far-right church and congregation in the nation for donations.

That's exactly what the proposition's leading proponent, Protect Marriage, has done, raising about $18 million from Mormons, evangelical Christians, and Roman Catholics, among others. In comparison, the leading opposition group, No on Prop 8, has raised $14 million.

After I'd taken the lead in fundraising, I'd cross my fingers and wish fiercely for a crisis on Wall Street. If donors decided to close their wallets because they felt worried about their financial futures, the opposition wouldn't be able to make up their funding shortfall. I could afford to dominate the airwaves with my ads.

That's exactly what's happening. With the credit crunch and Wall Street meltdown, the country is facing the worst financial crisis since the Depression.

Next, I'd turn the political campaign into a religious crusade and convince my base their way of life is at stake. People will do anything if they believe their backs are against the wall.

Look at what's happening. Hundreds of pastors have called on their congregations to pray and fast for a biblical 40 days. The California Conference of Catholic Bishops has distributed Sunday bulletin inserts to each of the state's 1,600 parishes. Workshops are being held in every diocese. In San Diego alone, anti-equality ministers are expecting to rally 100,000 people at the Chargers' NFL stadium a few days before the vote.

Lest anyone miss the point, evangelical leaders are turning to the Bible, calling this political fight "Armageddon" and declaring that it's a battle between David (that's them) and Goliath (that's us).

If I were leading this campaign, my advertisements would bombard voters with a blizzard of confusing charges that have nothing to do with the issue.

Proposition 8's proponents have done just that. Their first commercial declared that marriage equality could take tax-exempt status away from churches, require that Gay marriage be taught in public schools, and lead to lawsuits against those who express their "personal beliefs."

Legal experts call these charges preposterous. By making these ridiculous allegations, however, anti-equality forces frighten voters, heighten the jihadi nature of their campaign, and obscure the real issues.

And finally, being a religious soul, I'd pray that early polls predict the defeat of Proposition 8. Expecting victory, pro-equality folks might ease back, already cash-strapped supporters might decide they don't have to donate, and the effort to defeat Proposition 8 would stumble and fall just short of victory.

Once again, life is imitating my imaginary scenario. A Field Poll taken September 5-14 shows a 38 percent "yes" vote, and 55 percent "no" vote.

Despite those rosy results, consider two facts. The Field Poll was taken before the anti-equality forces aired their first commercial. A poll taken two weeks later by SurveyUSA showed a much closer race, with 44 percent supporting Proposition 8, while 49 percent of voters said they opposed it.

"Proposition 8 could go either way," SurveyUSA noted in its poll report.

Do you see the storm clouds yet?

What happens in California will affect every Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual American, no matter where they live. Political activists on both sides say this a tipping-point election.

California's oversized cultural influence on the rest of the nation is part of this. The fact that same-sex couples from other states can marry in California is key. Proposition 8 also marks the first time voters will have the power to eliminate a right their neighbors already have. Same-sex couples have been marrying in California since June.

I don't mean to depress you, but I do want to issue a wake-up call. Even in one of the most liberal states in the country, the fate of marriage equality is far from certain.

If fair-minded people around the nation don't donate time and money to No on Prop 8, California's constitution will be amended to ban same-sex marriage. Not only will the national push for marriage equality take a body blow, but thousands of California families headed by Lesbian and Gay couples will suffer.

Proposition 8 isn't about protecting anti-Gay people from lawsuits. Those hypothetical suits are already illegal. It isn't about shielding churches. Every church is already protected by well-established law.

Proposition 8 is about hurting people. It denies the emotional and legal benefits of marriage to an entire class of citizens. It makes their children's lives less secure by making their families less secure.

This proposition is nothing less than an assault on thousands of people who only want to live their lives in peace. It is long past time to put an end to this kind of viciousness.

No on Prop 8 can be found at http://noonprop8.com.

Diane Silver is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, whose freelance writing has appeared in Ms. magazine, Salon.com, and other national publications. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.

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