California probably rivals Florida for nutty state politics, although you have to allow that Minnesota runs a close third place. I mean, Jesse Ventura? Holy cow! Still, the home of both Arnold “”The Gropernator”" Schwarzenegger and Jerry “”Rondstadt’s boyfriend”" Brown has got to be notable for its wacky state politics.
We’ve got the whole Proposition ballot initiative law in California, which people from the East may not understand, but it gives us a lot of power as citizens. We don’t always use that power wisely, as Spiderman might say, but having it is worthwhile.
Let’s talk about Proposition 8. Gay marriage is certainly the flashpoint civil liberties issue of the day. Oddly, it was an unlikely candidate for flagship of the gay rights movement, and in the 1990s it was considered a non-starter. Equal opportunity and non-discrimination, as well as access to healthcare, were seen as much more important. But as gay marriage initiatives got their tentative start in the 21st century, it quickly became clear that this was an issue that everyone could relate to, that normalized the idea of gay rights. I mean, if Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe can connect their marriage and their desire to be life partners to gay couples like those nice Jane and Alice, it goes a long way towards relatability. Studies consistently show that if you personally know a gay person, you’re more likely to favor gay rights, and the whole idea of marriage makes gays more knowable.
Proposition 8 has been a Byzantine maze of tricks and turns, legal maneuvers and oddball funding sources. How Harvey Milk would have been shocked by the changes wrought in only thirty years! His California battle, after all, was the right for gay teachers simply to keep their jobs; he was fighting forces that wanted the state to legally ban gay teachers from working. “”What about the children?”" the rallying cry of the mendacious, has never been more sardonically used.