Prop 8 Aftermath

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed on KCRW.

We -– and by that I mean all of us in California -- have had a week and a half to absorb all that changed in the election.

In the rest of the country, they're either celebrating -- or moaning about -- Barack Obama going to Washington. And about Sara Palin going home to Wasila, presumably to keep a winking eye on Russia from her porch.

There's still plenty of Obama glow to be found around here. An ex-colleague emailed me at LA Observed to describe the scene when he arrived at LAX -– on Alaska Airlines, ironically enough – during Obama's victory speech.

Most everyone who got off the plane stayed in the deserted terminal to watch on TV.

When Obama was finished and the camera panned to the huge crowd in Chicago, one traveler began to applaud. One by one, the rest stood and joined in.

Those scenes of New Americana that Palin and her handlers at Fox News don't quite get are still happening. Here, though, the positive vibes are yielding to the public airing of raw emotions over Proposition 8.

That's the measure that alters the California constitution to eliminate marriage as an option for same-sex couples.

It also makes it so California does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries.

The initiative bankrolled by Mormons and other church-goers got about 52% of the vote statewide. That's much less than the last time California banned same-sex marriage, but more than sufficient to win.

Obama in his debates carefully parsed his position. He's pro-gay rights but said over and over that marriage is between a man and a woman.

That had to have sent a message, perhaps as loud as all the pastors in churches on the Sunday before Election Day.

Obama got a million and a half more California votes than the no side on Prop. 8. Exit polls found that many voters inked in Obama -- and a yes vote to outlaw gay marriage.

The impact was immediate. Counties stopped marrying same-sex couples the next day.

Thousands who got married in the five months since the state Supreme Court invalidated the old ban were left in legal limbo -- and in emotional chaos.

It stung, as you'd expect. As one TV pundit put it, Californians had time to see that the world didn't fall apart just because their gay friends got hitched -– and yet, voters still told them to take a hike.

Supporters of gay marriage reacted by shifting to the weakest of all political campaign strategies –- which is any strategy that kicks in after the votes have been cast.

The post-election phase has been characterized by finger-pointing, street protests and what if arguments.

If only the No on 8 campaign had been better organized. And more realistic about the level of opposition among otherwise good liberals and moderates.

If only the campaign had produced smarter commercials and found effective voices to connect with Latino and black voters, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama –- and enthusiastically for Prop. 8.

Liberal politicians -- and even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- raced to promise a robust legal fight based on the nuances of whether the measure amended or revised the Constitution.

It may be the right thing to do, and politically expedient, but attacking a majority vote of the populace is always dicey.

On the other side, and turning increasingly angry, are supporters of Prop. 8 who warn that pols and lawyers should respect the expression of California democracy.

But a majority for how long? It took huge spending by the religious advocates of Prop. 8 to win, and the percentage fell from 61% who voted to ban gay marriage last time to 52%.

That's what the analysts call a historic trend. Next time, who knows?

For KCRW this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

Banner image: A police officer keeps back cheering supporters of same-sex marriage as they march for miles in protest against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints November 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Demonstrators say the Mormon Church contributed some $35 million to pass the measure. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images