News Column

Prop. 8 and the Hispanic Vote

Nov. 7, 2008

Jessica Haro--Assistant Editor,

prop 8, proposition 8, gay marriage, marriage ban, ballot measure, california politics

Proposition 8, the California initiative that prevented same-sex couples from getting married, made national headlines this week. Many see it as a look into the future of gay marriage throughout the United States. Californians approved the proposition 52 percent to 48 percent, thereby amending the state's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Just as their votes were considered critical to winning the presidential election, Hispanics were considered a key group whose support was necessary in the Prop. 8 battle. Hispanics were courted by both the Yes and No campaigns via messages in both Spanish and English that by and large emphasized the importance of family.

The campaign in favor of Prop. 8 presented two Spanish versions of its English-language television ads, each of which warned that gay marriage would be taught in schools unless the proposition passed. In addition, the campaign used pre-recorded phone calls and a television commercial featuring telenovela star Eduardo Verastegui, in which he echoed the campaign's core messages, as well as the pride he feels for the Hispanic community and his belief that all children need both a mother and a father.

On the other side, the No on Prop. 8 campaign created two television ads -- one in Spanish and one in English -- in which Ugly Betty cast members America Ferrera, Tony Plana and Ana Ortiz asked viewers to preserve equal rights for their gay friends and family members. The campaign was also aided by an endorsement from La Opinion, a prominent Southern California Spanish-language newspaper. In its October 9 editorial, the paper reminded Hispanics that they once faced similar discrimination:

"That right was declared in May by the California Supreme Court, ruling that such a ban is discriminatory. To arrive at that decision, the judges based their opinion on a 1948 legal precedent that determined that it was illegal to prohibit marriage of couples of different races."

The story of Prop. 8 began in 2000, when 61% of California voters approved Proposition 22, another initiative banning gay marriage. On February 12, 2004, then newly-elected San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom challenged this law by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. This set in motion a rush of 4,000 couples to San Francisco City Hall, which was ended by a court order 29 days later. All the marriages were annulled.

In 2005 and 2007 the state legislature approved bills legalizing gay marriage, but both were vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. After the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge to Prop. 22, supporters of the proposition began drafting what would become Prop. 8.

On May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Proposition 22 was unconstitutional because it violated the California constitution's guarantee of equal rights. The suit had been filed the day after San Francisco was ordered to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

On June 17, after the California marriage license application was changed to be gender-neutral, the state began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. More than 18,000 gay couples were married before Prop. 8 passed on November 4.

Opponents of Prop. 8 had prepared ahead of time to challenge the ban in court if it passed, and submitted the challenges the day after the election. The opponents argue that Prop. 8 is not just a constitutional amendment, but a dramatic revision of the state's constitution, which requires a vote by the California legislature before being placed on the ballot.

Hispanics have been both criticized and praised for their role in Prop. 8 passing. The Yes campaign thanked the turnout of Hispanics who were eager to vote for Barack Obama, but whose religious values would lead them to vote yes on Prop. 8. Hispanic supporters of gay marriage are quick to point out that the discrimination homosexuals face is similar to the discrimination Hispanics continue to face. Said Los Angeles Spanish-language radio personality Fernando Espuelas, "The irony of Latino support for Prop. 8 is sad. That a community that continues to struggle for basic rights would deny them to another is particularly baffling."

Of course, like every other demographic, not all Hispanics voted alike. The following is a look at how Hispanics and the total electorate voted on Prop. 8, based on an exit poll done by Edison Media Research.

As a whole:
53 percent of Hispanics voted yes; 52% of the electorate voted yes.

By gender:
54% of Hispanic males voted yes. 53% of males voted yes.
52% of both Hispanic women and women in general voted yes.

By age:
59% of Hispanics age 18-29 voted no; 61% of 18-29-year-olds voted no.
60% of Hispanics age 30-44 voted yes; 55% of 30-44-year-olds voted yes.
57% of Hispanics age 45-64 voted yes; 54% of 45-64-year-olds voted yes.
There was not enough data to compare Hispanics 65 and over to all voters 65 and over.

By religion (not specific to Hispanics):
64% of Catholics voted yes
65% of Protestants voted yes
90% of non-religious voted no.
84% weekly churchgoers voted yes
54% of occasional churchgoers voted no
83% of people who've never been to church voted no

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters