The ballot measure aimed at creating a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage in California passed in Tuesday's election, with apparently overwhelming support from many of the voters who made Barrack Obama the state's choice for president.
Proposition 8 would amend the state constitution to say "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Election results suggested that the high turnout of voters motivated by a desire to cast ballots for the first African-American to be elected president also was a factor in Proposition 8's strong showing.
Statewide, Obama, the Democratic junior senator from Illinois had 61.3 percent of the vote, compared to only 37 percent for Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But the massive pro-Obama vote, regarded as a liberal vote, did not translate into support for Prop 8.
In Los Angeles County, there was an even bigger gap between the number of votes cast for Obama and for Prop 8. Los Angeles County residents supported Obama with 69.33 percent of the vote -- against 28.78 percent for McCain -- but gave Prop 8 only 50.4 percent of the vote, compared to 49.6 percent against.
Legal groups have asked California's highest court to overturn the same-sex marriage ban.The petition filed Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8 on the grounds that voters did not have the authority to make such a dramatic change in state law. It argued that the measure revised, rather than amended the California Constitution, and therefore first should have been submitted to the state Legislature.
The Supreme Court refused to hear a petition making similar claims in June, when same-sex marriage rights activists tried to get Proposition 8 struck from the ballot. Two married women said they plan to sue, arguing that the amendment is unconstitutional because it violates their rights to equal protection under the law.
Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles County suspended the issuance of marriage licenses for same-sex couples in light of preliminary results. According to a statement from the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's Office, constitutional amendments approved by voters take effect the day after the election. The issuing of licenses will remain suspended unless the registrar's office is directed differently by a court or state agency, officials said.
Prop 8 proponents suggested there could have been confusion on the part of voters as to whether a yes vote meant support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage or for gay rights.
But they said that opposition to Proposition 8 would be consistent with the social conservatism that is perceived to exist in the black and Latino communities, both of which overwhelmingly supported Obama -- meaning that the proposition may have generated not a Democratic-Republican clash so much as a distinct conservative-liberal divide.
Prop 8 proponents vowed not to go down without a fight. Attorney Gloria Allred, whose lawsuit on behalf of Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, resulted in the California Supreme Court ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, announced she would file a new suit later Wednesday with the high court on behalf of the same clients.
"The new lawsuit will contain a new and controversial legal argument as to why Prop 8 is unconstitutional," Allred said.
Eight years ago, California voters approved Proposition 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. In May, the state Supreme Court ruled in response to Allred's lawsuit that limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.
Supporters of Prop 8, including the California Family Council, say same-sex couples can obtain similar benefits under domestic partnership laws. Children who are not reared by a mother and father are also put at a disadvantage, according to Prop 8 supporters.
"It not only represents the 99 percent of all marriages in California that are traditional, but it's also a place where we protect the rights of children in the law," said Sonja Brown, a spokeswoman for Yes on 8. "We don't see any of our institutions watching out for the rights of children so we are going to make sure that we do."
Proposition 8 opponents say the initiative is discriminatory and violates equality and privacy rights guaranteed by the state constitution.