As California joined Florida and Arizona in approving a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage this week, something unusual happened: Gay rights activists in the state fought back.

Since Wednesday, protesters across the Golden State have taken to the streets and stormed Mormon temples, leaving us all to wonder where this is going.

It's disturbing, but I have to say that it's not without merit.

Voters in California did something so appalling that any red-blooded gay person would have been incensed. By approving the gay marriage ban, voters yanked back the right of gays and lesbians to marry in the state – something they had been doing at a breakneck pace since the California Supreme Court struck down a 2000 voter-approved law banning gay marriage in May.

Californian gay couples are once again barred from marriage in the state, leaving only Massachusetts and Connecticut (as of Nov. 12th) issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Thousands of gay marriage backers took to the streets in San Francisco and Los Angelesand over 10,000 in San Diego – angry over the role played by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in passing the anti-gay amendment.

A protest in Salt Lake City, Utah drew another 2,000 protesters who waved rainbow flags outside the headquarters of the Mormon Church. Signs that read “Mormons: Once persecuted, now persecutors” were visible among the rainbow flags, a symbol of gay identity.

Mormon involvement in the gay marriage ban was based primarily out of the Mormon stronghold of Utah, home base of the Mormon Church, where members make up a majority (62%) of the population. At the urging of President Thomas Monson, the hard-working Mormon ethic churned out massive donations of time and money. Some estimate Mormon members accounted for as much as 75% of the $36 million raised to promote the gay marriage ban.

Other protest ideas, such as the withholding of gay taxes or boycotting the state of Utah, have also been floated, primarily on the Internet.

But as justified as the anger might be, it won't settle much; it's time to accept the fact that our campaign failed us.

Can we blame a financial shortfall? Certainly not; the No-On-8 campaign raised nearly $40 million to fight Proposition 8. Can we blame a lack of support? Absolutely not; gay marriage backers included the Hollywood elite, corporations, labor unions, liberal churches, high-profile politicians – former-President Bill Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama included – as well as gay and lesbian rights groups.

Some have suggested the notion that race sunk us; as African-Americans showed up at the polls in record numbers to support President-elect Barack Obama, they also voted against gay marriage overwhelmingly.

But there we can only blame ourselves; there was little to no outreach to the African-American community on the subject of gay marriage during the short June-to-November campaign.

The reason for our loss is simple: We failed to craft a message that allowed voters to see gay marriage as the simple civil rights issue that it is.

Civil marriage is a plain contract between two people, and only two people (sorry, but dogs and horses, who are unable to give consent, cannot enter contracts). Society, however, has dressed up marriage to include fanciful ideas of being an institution devoted to the rearing of children and a joyful celebration of life. The reality is that nearly half of American couples come to realize too late that there is nothing magical about the contract itself; that magic must come from within.

Moreover, there was little discussion as to why civil unions fall short of marriage. The separate-but-equal argument is language that Black voters identify with, but was not pursued much.

Pro-gay rights groups in California announced Wednesday they would challenge the legality of the newly-passed gay marriage ban, arguing that it was invalid because it alters the constitution's “core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group, lesbian and gay Californians.”

The rights groups say the gay marriage ban used an improper vehicle – a voter ballot – to alter the constitution. They contend that such a measure is only valid when making superficial changes to the constitution. To change the underlying principles of the constitution, a measure must first be approved by the legislature before being submitted to the voters on a ballot. Proposition 8 radically alters the California constitution by removing rights previously given by the constitution itself, and relied on the voter ballot to accomplish its goal.

Despite these grave gay marriage losses, Tuesday's election did provide some wonderful gay and lesbian victories, as voters approved forty openly gay state representatives and senators nationwide.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe called 2008 a “watershed election” for gay candidates.

Voters overwhelmingly re-elected openly gay Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin and Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, while Coloradoans took a shot at freshman Representative Jared Polis.

And while Baldwin praised Polis' big win in Colorado – saying Polis will bring a new “energy” and “perspective” to Congress – she lamented the loss of openly gay Linda Ketner in South Carolina.

“Linda Ketner mounted a challenge to what most people would agree is a well-entrenched Republican incumbent,” Baldwin told OUTTAKEOnline CEO Charlotte Robinson. “She really made some history there [running as an openly gay candidate in the deep south]. And while she came up short, I'm very proud of her strong candidacy and think she has helped create a path for others to follow. And that's noteworthy in and of itself.”

And premiering this week was director John Roecker's revealing look at gay porn stars on cable channel here! Everything You Wanted To Know About Gay Porn Stars *but were afraid to ask may just share too much.

The Gay Slant pops in most Saturdays at On Top Magazine. Walter Weeks is a writer for On Top and can be reached at

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