November 8, 2008

Proposition 8: Where's the Outrage?

by Chelsea Ritchie

Last week, while voters were casting their votes in mass numbers for Barack Obama in the presidential race, a different vote was counted and pronounced. California’s controversial Proposition 8 passed, making gay marriage illegal in the state. (For more on Proposition 8 and gay rights, please see: "California's Proposition 8's TV Ads" and "The Story, the Truth and Fred Phelps.") Basically the proposition bans the right of same-sex couples to marry, nulls the bonds of those already married, and overrules Proposition 22. The vote was 52.5% in favor and 47.5% against, although those percentages don't include absentee and provisional ballots.

Why have the media covered so little of this topic? While my classmates argue over the future under president-elect Obama and whether his policies are adequate, I can’t help but to wonder why the media have said so little about Proposition 8. After all, this is the highest- funded campaign on any state ballot (a combined total of $73.4 million). Clearly the media frenzy for Obama’s campaign has been shown all over CNN, ABC, NBC, and other major television news networks.

Perhaps being a Californian, I feel compelled to research but I found that while I was in California I didn't see much information about what Prop. 8 proposed., a major organization which sponsored the Prop. 8 ballot, cleverly made the campaign into voting for Prop. 8 to “protect ourselves and children.” Contrasting that position, the ads against Prop. 8 hardly used “gay,” or “lesbian” and I think the ads actually looked so similar that one could easily confuse what Prop. 8 did. Since May 15, Proposition 22 has allowed same sex marriages and I have never felt the need to “protect myself.” I did the research and saw what exactly Prop. 8 petitioned, but my fellow Californians may not have. My good friend Remie even told me she was proud to vote for Prop. 8 because she wanted to protect gay marriages. What she really did was vote to ban it. It’s this kind of confusion that probably changed the voter outcome for or against Prop. 8.

There needs to be more awareness about this proposition and I blame the limited coverage of the media to the passing of this petition. It is the responsibility of our news anchors, newspaper columnists, radio DJ’s and bloggers to spread the awareness. Yes, it is also the voter’s responsibility to research before you vote, but many people rely on the mainstream media to deliver the facts. Just because the media were occupied with the presidential election is not an excuse to barely show a proposition this big.

(The photo shows a post-election protest by those against California's Proposition 8 in San Francisco. The photo is by ingridtaylar via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. For more on this topic please see these posts on the iVoryTowerz blog: "Isn't Love All You Need?" and "California: Prop 8 Turns Back the Clock.")

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Alissa Scheller said...

I wholeheartedly agree. While everyone else was celebrating an Obama victory, I was nervously watching CNN's online polls, waiting for prop. 8 results. I have heard very little from the media in the aftermath of stripping rights from an entire group of citizens. I guess they're too busy. I know many voters were confused over the wording of the initiative, which may have affected the results. Another issue that I think is significant is that major news networks projected the presidential election results before the polls even closed in California. I heard from a few of my friends in California that voters left the polls in droves after they heard that Obama was the projected winner, as if they didn't even realize that president was not, in fact, the only thing they were voting for. It's greatly upsetting to me that discrimination is now written into the California state constitution.

Rick Rockwell said...

As a member of the media (sometimes) I feel responsible here to discuss some of the facts rather than opinions about the coverage.

Politically, I agree that this did not turn out as progressive voters would have hoped.

But of course this was going to be overshadowed by the monumental and historic presidential election. That doesn't diminish the importance of the issue.

But let's deal with facts about the coverage. Please do a Google search and you'll find hundreds of articles about the results of the race. The major networks and cable did cover the results. The story was one of the top items by the Associated Press on its election roundup the next day.

Let's also be accurate about when the networks called the election. I was switching between ABC and CNN and saw the call at 11 p.m. EST. That's 8 p.m. California time, exactly when polls were closing. I can't speak for media outlets in California (perhaps some local stations called the presidential race before the networks, although that is highly unlikely), but Broadcasting & Cable Magazine also notes all the major networks called the race for Obama at 11 Eastern/8 Pacific. Polls would not be open at that point or just closing. You can check the B&C article here.

I realize folks are disappointed with this outcome and some are puzzled by it but don't blame the messenger (the media) for the outcome.

Alissa Scheller said...

Although I probably have a somewhat skewed opinion due to my personal connection to the issue, I do think it is an issue that is, not just in this instance, but routinely, downplayed by media.
I know CNN did not officially call the election until 8:00pm in California, when polls closed, but prior to that they were predicting the outcome (doing math with electoral votes and such) and that was the point at which, according to my friends in California, voters began leaving the polls. I think that did have an effect on the outcome of Prop. 8.

Logan said...

I know this seems like a huge step backward for gay rights in America, but in practice Prop 8 didn't change much. Gays can still be joined in a civil union in California, which provides basically the same rights as marriage does. If so many intolerant people can't accept calling it gay marriage, than I have no problem with calling it something else as long as gays get the same legal rights they deserve.

Alissa Scheller said...

California allows same-sex couples to enter into "domestic partnerships," a concept that, while it affords couples some rights, does not have the same legal standing or societal implications as marriage. In California, same-sex couples in domestic partnerships do have the same rights as married couples in regards to state taxes, hospital visitation, etc., however, domestic partnerships hold no standing at a federal level (i.e., as soon as you leave the state of California, you have no legal relationship). Aside from the legal issues, domestic partnerships just don't hold the same place in our society as marriage. Saying that you're in a domestic partnership is very different from saying that you're married. In my opinion, what the government is basically doing with marriages and civil unions and domestic partnerships is giving people separate-but-equal rights -- a concept that just inherently unfair.