Wedded diss

Marriage-equality supporters to challenge Proposition 8 in November

To help get the Marriage Equality Initiative on the 2010 ballot, go to
For more information about the Marriage Equality Initiative, visit

It’s never too soon to undo a bad decision.

At least, that’s what John Henning thinks. He’s one of the founders of Love Honor Cherish, the group behind the only active push to put the repeal of Proposition 8 on the ballot in 2010.

“We need to get our rights back,” he told SN&R. “It’s just that simple.”

Other groups, such as Equality California and the Courage Campaign, have decided to wait for the next general election in 2012, which will provide time for more fundraising and planning, as well as lead to a larger voter turnout.

“We’re disappointed,” said Henning, a Berkeley-educated attorney who co-directed and co-produced the documentary Saving Marriage. But he pointed out that both EQCA and the Courage Campaign have issues other than marriage equality on their agendas. “We are solely focused on repealing Prop. 8. These other groups have other priorities as well.”

He also noted that Marriage Equality USA, a national group that partners with the Courage Campaign, has left it up to each individual chapter to decide whether or not to work for repeal in 2010. Henning expressed hopes that members of that group would decide to work on his group’s initiative.

He’s also got hopes EQCA and the Courage Campaign will join the battle. “We know they’ll be onboard once it qualifies. Once it’s on the ballot, we know they’ll put everything into getting our rights back,” Henning said. “They made a decision, but decisions can be changed.”

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, told SN&R that “bringing this back to the ballot every two years just hardens the voters,” but added that EQCA will advise people to vote for the measure if it qualifies for the ballot.

Two local groups vowed to support any move toward marriage equality. Sandy Richard, co-leader of the Sacramento chapter of Marriage Equality USA, told SN&R that they’d be “supporting organizations that are working on both the 2010 and 2012 ballot.”

And Tina Reynolds, a founder of Sacramento-based Equality Action Now, echoed that response. “Anybody that wants to move the agenda for equality forward, we’re all over it,” she said. “They’ll have our support.” Reynolds noted that there had been pressure on the organization to choose between 2010 and 2012 for an attempt to repeal Prop. 8, but that the group had decided “we don’t have to pick sides.”

“We came to the conclusion that there’s no wrong path,” Reynolds said. “At the grassroots level, we’re making the decision based on what’s right or wrong, not on timing or politics.”

Love Honor Cherish is backing is the Marriage Equality Initiative. The group certified five initiative amendments for signature gathering with the California secretary of state’s office last November, but settled on the language in just one of the approved initiatives. “At the time that we had to give the language to the state, we weren’t sure about the language we wanted to use, and the way we dealt with that was to submit five versions,” Henning said. All of the initiatives are similar, but the one that the group is collecting signatures for is, Henning believes, the simplest to understand.

If approved by voters, it would repeal Prop. 8, an initiative amendment to California’s state constitution passed in 2008, which limits marriage in the state to a man and a woman. The Marriage Equality Initiative further provides that marriage is between two people and can’t be restricted based on race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Another provision protects the rights of “any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person” to refuse to perform a marriage that violates his or her religious beliefs. “It’s specifically written so that people can understand what we mean,” Henning said. “We thought that that language had to be in there so people will understand exactly what we’re doing.”

And what they’re doing right now is gathering signatures. They’ll need 694,354 registered voters to sign petitions by April 12 in order to qualify it for the November general election.

“We are actively gathering signatures,” Henning said, and it’s all volunteer. Under the umbrella organization Restore Equality 2010, volunteers are being organized to cover the entire state. What’s more, at the Web site, volunteers can view training videos, print copies of the petition, and start gathering signatures right away. Once the forms are completed, they can either be mailed to the Sign for Equality office or dropped off with a local organizer.

According to the Web site, Sacramento’s not particularly well-organized.

“We do have people that are active in Sacramento, but it’s a place that we need volunteers to gather signatures,” Henning said. “We need more volunteers.

“The whole reason why we started this was because we think the ideal way to qualify initiatives is with volunteers,” Henning continued. “It’s a clear way of signaling that an issue is important.”

Nevertheless, Henning didn’t rule out using paid signature gatherers.

“We’d rather any money we raise go to support our volunteers and to support a campaign,” Henning said, “but we’ll do what we have to do.”