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10 Years Later: The True Story about California’s Proposition 8

Marriage brings together one man and one woman as husband and wife so that they will become the father and mother to any children they create together. Ten years ago – on Nov. 4, 2008 – 52 percent of the California electorate voted for Proposition 8, which affirmed this truth for the purposes of state law. Later, in Hollingsworth v. Perry, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) fought for Proposition 8 after state officials themselves refused to defend their own constitution in federal court.

Over the last decade, the slick anti-8 slogans and documentaries have sunken into the American consciousness. The media has taken pains to paint Proposition 8 supporters in the worst possible light. With a new generation being raised in a post-Obergefell world, social conservatives have a duty to relay the truth about marriage and Proposition 8.

If we do not, those in the next generation may well be convinced by default that their parents and grandparents who voted for the measure were either ignorant or malevolent.

Here’s the true story of the successful “Yes on 8” campaign.

In the wake of the damage done by the sexual revolution, a pro-marriage movement—led by advocates and scholars such as Maggie Gallagher and Jennifer Roback Morse—addressed an array of issues like no-fault divorce and out-of-wedlock births. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, they wrote books promoting the permanent bond of marriage—the institution that maximizes the likelihood that children receive the loving support of their own mother and father.

By the early 2000s, they realized that other aspects of marriage—its complementary and procreative nature—were similarly at risk of being lost in the public square. They recognized that attempting to redefine marriage would tell a different story about marriage, one that was based solely on emotional and romantic desire—you and your No. 1 person, in the language of same-sex marriage advocates.

But marriage is about much more than that. It is the institution that binds mothers and fathers to one another. They commit permanently to one another for, among other things, the good of their children.

The state had attempted to significantly reshape marriage once before through no-fault divorce laws, which taught that marriage need not be permanent. Eliminating the procreative and complementary aspects to marriage would further obscure the meaning and purpose of the institution. More importantly, it would teach that children do not have an essential need for both a father and a mother.

Inspired by the same motivation they had in the original marriage movement in the 1990s, to connect children to their father and mother, Gallagher, Morse, and others helped defend state laws upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They united people from varied backgrounds to come together to define marriage in the California Constitution in 2008 after the state’s supreme court struck down the law recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

They brought along prominent religious leaders from their respective communities, together forming a diverse coalition that included Hispanics, Catholics, blacks, evangelicals, and Mormons.

It was a winning coalition. Proposition 8 prevailed not only in the conservative portions of the state but also in Los Angeles County and Sacramento County.

Now you may disagree with the views of these social conservative leaders. But their convictions and advocacy never focused on just same-sex marriage. All their work stemmed from a set of assumptions about the family that they applied to the contemporary question of same-sex marriage. This confirms that their views did not arise out of animus against those who identify as LGBT. Rather, their advocacy for Proposition 8 built upon a preexisting, larger ethic of the family.

And it is a reasonable ethic upon which to base one’s views on marriage. Post no-fault divorce and post Obergefell, the truth about marriage is becoming more difficult to discern. It will take a long time to untangle the knots that the sexual revolutionaries continue to weave.

In the meantime, study up on the issue. Find the best arguments you can. (I recommend Girgis, Anderson, and George’s What is Marriage, as well as Ryan Anderson’s lectures on YouTube.) And perhaps more importantly than all that, live your life to reflect the truth about marriage. Be faithful to your own vows. Love your spouse and children selflessly. Show the world what God intended marriage to be.

And who knows, if enough people do those things, we just might recover the truth about marriage in our own cultural moment.

Jared Dobbs

Communication Integrity Specialist

Jared Dobbs is the Communication Integrity Specialist at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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