Gay marriage: Prop. 8 seems a relic of different era in California
California voters approved Prop. 8, which bans gay marriage, in 2008. Between then and today, when the US Supreme Court takes up Prop. 8's constitutionality, the social landscape has changed.
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“They just treated me differently,” she says. Many kept a conspicuous distance.Skip to next paragraph
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“I realized what LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people put up with day after day, and that cemented my support for equality,” she says.
Later, getting involved with a marriage-equality group, she met many gays who wanted to get married.
“I realized here was a whole group of people who simply loved others and wanted to spend their lives together but were never shown the respect and dignity that comes with marriage,” she says.
She doesn’t want to tell others what to think, but suggests that the American government is not living up to its promise of “all men are created equal.”
Ironically, Prop. 8 helped the gay-rights cause in California, activists say.
“Prop. 8 really activated the gay community in the state,” says Michael McKeon of Love, Honor, Cherish, a group that formed in Los Angeles to fight for marriage equality in 2008.
“Nobody really thought it would pass, but when it did, I realized I had to do something, and get involved,” he says.
Dozens of teams began a focused, door-knocking campaign, with he and his partner of 15 years spending many hours talking to people and explaining the issues. “We introduced ourselves, talked about who we were and why the stakes were so important,” he says. “We had thousands of conversations ... and we changed people's minds.”
At the same time, gay rights has become more mainstream, with President Obama last year becoming the first president to announce his support for gay marriage while in office.
High-profile California companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook are among nearly 300 companies that filed a brief in support of the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allows only heterosexual couples to be eligible for federal marriage benefits.
“Companies should care about repealing DOMA because DOMA forces companies to live in the past,” says Joe Solmenese, co-founder at the law firm Gavin/Solmonese.
Hollywood has also played a role in reflecting this shift in attitudes, says Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York. While Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out on “Ellen” was seen as a watershed moment for gays on television, more recent portrayals – such as “Will and Grace” and “Modern Family” – have knit gay characters more seamlessly into everyday American life.
“Pop culture is not so good at pushing the envelope as it is in licking it,” says Mr. Thompson. Everyone knew gay people in the 1950s, but just didn’t know they were gay, he says. “Now we do."