Frequently Asked Questions about Prop 8

Impact on Same-sex Couples

Don't domestic partnerships give all the same rights as marriage, just without the same name?

NO. Domestic partnerships are a creature of California law, and have no significance when traveling outside of California. If we're on vacation in another state, or I'm on a business trip in another state, our California domestic partnership means nothing in other jurisdictions. Domestic partnerships have no federal recognition either. For example, unlike fully-recognized married couples, if I die, my domestic partner would not get any of my earned Social Security benefits. Though he'd automatically get our house because we own it as joint tenants, he would have to pay a hefty tax on the value of his "gift income". Issues such as Social Security, inheritance taxation, insurance and pension law impede our ability to see to each other's security in the same way as a married couple.

Within California, don't domestic partnerships get the same rights as marriage?

NO. Even within California, domestic partnerships don't get the same recognition even though they're legally entitled to it. Part of the problem is that people just aren't familiar with domestic partnerships. The other part is that by having a separate status it inevitably creates the implication that the separate status is "second class". Even if the same water is running through separate drinking fountains, it's not the same thing as having one fountain for everyone. As a practical matter, domestic partners are often discountenanced by hospitals and doctors, bankers and brokers, in insurance and employee benefits, as we try to fulfill our responsibilities to provide and care for one another. (See, for example, New Jersey's experience with civil unions.)

Aren't domestic partnerships good enough for hospital visitation rights?

NO. Legally they should be, but in practice there have been horrifying instances of domestic partners being barred from discussing their partner's medical condition with the doctor, or even barred from visiting them in the hospital. Marriage is a universally recognized and understood concept, while few people know the details of what domestic partnership means, and thus may be reluctant to accept it. (find out more)

Churches and Religious Liberty

Will churches be forced to perform same-sex marriages?

NO. The California Supreme Court in their recent decision was very clear that no religion will be required to change its practices, and no officiant will be required to perform any wedding ceremony against his/her beliefs. Freedom of religion is fundamental, and would not be affected by same-sex marriage. (find out more)

Can churches lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages?

NO. Per federal law, the only political action that jeopardizes a church's tax-exempt status is endorsing a particular candidate or party. Moreover, tax-exemption is a federal matter, so changes in California law would not effect the federal tax codes. (find out more)

But that Pepperdine law professor on the TV ad said that churches could lose their tax-exempt status.

What an embarrassment for Pepperdine that was to have one of their law profs be so obviously and publicly wrong about the law. While the University respects the right to free speech of their professor, they promptly contacted the Prop 8 people and demanded that Pepperdine's name be removed from those ads.

Doesn't same-sex marriage go against most religions?

NO. Positions on same-sex marriage vary across denominations, and even within denominations from church to church. While many churches do not support same-sex marriage, plenty of churches actively perform same-sex marriages. Many more churches, while not performing same-sex marriages, oppose state law like Prop 8 on the grounds of separating church and state to preserve religious liberty. For instance, the California Council of Churches endorses marriage equality (i.e., opposes Prop 8). (find out more)

ALSO: There is a good discussion of the "scary" court cases being hyped out of context by Prop 8 supporters, as well as Q&A about concerns from a Christian perspective on the website for Adventists Against Prop 8.

Schools

Will schools be forced to teach kids about same-sex marriage?

NO. The curriculum identified by the California Education Code for health education includes instruction on "the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood", as an optional topic within a health education program. The law specifies that the instruction should teach respect for marriage and committed relationships, and that the material should be appropriate for "pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds", etc. The law specifies that parents and the community have a role in shaping the specifics of the curriculum for their local schools. That's been the curriculum for many years, and there's no reason it would change. As the LA Times editorial board said, in urging a NO on 8 vote, "Assertions that it would require schools to promote gay marriage are utter nonsense." California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell has denounced the claims of the YES on 8 ads as "lies" and "absolutely not true".

But I heard that in Massachusetts, a school refused to honor a parent's objections to a book?

Unlike Massachusetts, California law gives parents an absolute right to remove their kids and opt-out of teaching on health and family instruction they donít agree with. The Yes on 8 campaign knows that California law already gives parents a choice, and Prop 8 passing or not wonít affect that, so they bring up an irrelevant case in Massachusetts as a scare tactic.

I heard that in San Francisco, some elementary school kids were taken on a field trip to see their lesbian teacher get married.

That's true. It happened in a charter school, and the field trip was instigated and organized not by the teacher, but by the parents. Those parents in that particular class wanted their children to see what they felt was an important learning opportunity. The parents of all but two of the students agreed. Those other two students were accommodated in another classroom that day, and weren't forced to go on the field trip. This was parents having a choice in how their children are educated in these matters — isn't that how it's supposed to work? (find out more) UPDATE: Not only are the Yes on 8 people misrepresenting this incident, but their latest commercial uses images of first-graders without their parents' consent and against their objections.

The Court Decision

Didn't four liberal judges arrogantly override the will of the people?

It's important to remember that we live in a constitutional form of government where the "will of the people" does not always rule. The Constitution rules. As part of the "checks and balances", it's the job of judges to keep the majority in check when they want to infringe the rights of a minority. That's not "legislating from the bench", it's doing their job, and by its nature, it's often a thankless and unpopular job. (find out more)

It's wrong to suggest that the judges made their decision based on ideology. Chief Justice Robert George, who wrote the opinion, has a long reputation as a "careful jurist" and a "moderate Republican". Three of the four judges were Republican appointees. Moreover, the trial court judge who first ruled in favor of same-sex marriage is a Republican and a Catholic. These judges were not pushing any agenda. If anything, they were just being scrupulously honest in following the Constitution to its logical consequence of fairness and equal treatment, which may even have been contrary to their personal political leanings. What's arrogant are the people who impugn the integrity of these judges by automatically assuming they were "arrogant liberals".

Statistics

How many same-sex couples have married?

Same-sex marriage only became legally recognized in California in June of this year. Between June 17 and September 17, it is estimated over 11,000 same-sex couples were married in California. That represents about one sixth of the total marriages during that period. (find out more) (UPDATE: Estimates as of 2 November are that 16,000 same-sex couples have married.)

What does same-sex marriage mean for the California economy?

In the official ballot pamphlet, the legislative analyst projects a net negative fiscal impact of tens of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue over the next few years if Prop 8 passes. Currently, California is only the second state to legally recognize same-sex marriage, drawing same-sex couples not only within California but around the country to come here for their weddings, and in the process, supporting California businesses. A recent study by the Williams Institute estimated that direct spending by same-sex couples on weddings and tourism would boost the California economy by over $680 million over the next three years, creating and sustaining over 2000 new jobs, and adding over $60 million to state and local tax revenues. (find out more)

How many same-sex couples are there in California?

Census-based estimates put the number of self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual Californians at 861,000, which is about 3% of the total population. There are about 109,000 same-sex couples (roughly 1 in 4 gay individuals are coupled). Nearly 25% of those couples are raising more than 52,000 children. (find out more)

Further Discussion

Please also read our open letter to fellow Californians, in which we explain how Prop 8 affects us personally. Also, while I don't believe that religion should be relevant to this legal issue, those with concerns about the moral equivalence of same-sex marriage may be interested to read some conversative, virtue-based thoughts on same-sex marriage.

We realize that you, our fellow Californians, are a diverse crowd with many different points of view. We've tried to explain our viewpoint on this website, but we couldn't address every possible moral, religious, political and philosophical perspective. If you have questions, comments, or would like to discuss this further, we welcome respectful dialog with our fellow citizens. Please feel free to add your comments by clicking here. If you found this website helpful in thinking about this issue, we hope you will discuss it with your family and friends, and send them to this web page.

Tom and George
Los Angeles, CA

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