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Encouraging Polling Trends

A proposed constitutional marriage amendment in California took a lead in a recent statewide poll days after supporters of the proposal began airing their first statewide television ad.

The amendment, known as Proposition 8, led 47-42 percent in the SurveyUSA poll, which was conducted October 4-5 among 670 likely voters for four California TV stations. Although the poll put the amendment below 50 percent — not a good position for an initiative — it nonetheless was the first public poll in more than four months to show Proposition 8 ahead, and could reflect the impact of the new advertisement. Supporters also note that marriage amendments typically outperform polls on Election Day. In late September, a SurveyUSA poll had the amendment trailing, 49-44 percent.

If passed, the amendment would reverse the May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing "gay marriage."

The thirty-second ad opens by showing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speaking after the ruling and saying about "gay marriage," "The door's wide open now. It's gonna happen — whether you like it or not." The scene then shifts to a courtroom showing the justices of the California Supreme Court. A female narrator says, "Four judges ignored 4 million voters and imposed same-sex marriage on California. It's no longer about tolerance. Acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory." The narrator was referencing Proposition 22, a state statute defining marriage in the traditional sense that garnered 4.6 million votes (61 percent of the vote) in 2000. The court, though, declared the law unconstitutional.

Richard Peterson, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, speaks briefly in the ad and says "gay marriage" legalization could change society drastically. "People sued over personal beliefs, churches could lose their tax-exemption, gay marriage taught in public schools," he says.

The female narrator closes the ad by saying, "We don't have to accept this."

The SurveyUSA poll asked those polled, "Proposition 8 would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. It changes the California Constitution so that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California. On Proposition 8, are you … certain to vote yes? Certain to vote no? Or not certain?"

The poll conducted indicated that support for the measure to ban gay marriage had grown among voters in the state over an eleven day period — most especially among young voters. The only demographic group to significantly change their views during this period were younger voters — considered the hardest to poll and the most unpredictable voters — who supported the measure after previously opposing it.

Not surprisingly, support for a gay marriage ban was strongest among those who considered themselves conservatives and identified themselves as regular churchgoers. Opposition was strongest amongst liberals and those who are less religious.

The Protect Marriage Coalition also reported that as of October 7 it had received contributions of nearly 22.8 million dollars since the first of June when Proposition 8 qualified for the ballot in California. This, added to earlier contributions of 2.4 million dollars last spring, brought the total dollars raised in support of Protect Marriage to 25.4 million dollars. The state filing by the Protect Marriage Coalition at the time was nearly five thousand pages long, recording tens of thousands of individual donations.

Protect Marriage campaign manager Frank Schubert acknowledged the enormous fund-raising success "shows the strength of our cause and the tremendous grassroots support for traditional marriage across the state." About two-thirds of all donations received had been $100 or less. Over sixty-two thousand donations had been received to date. Ninety-five percent of all donations had come from within California.

Even individuals who live outside of California can visit ProtectMarriage.com to see what could be done to help pass Proposition 8.

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the amendment there and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Additionally, in September, the executive board of the California Southern Baptist Convention unanimously endorsed the amendment.

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