Same-Sex Marriage: Prop 8 Debate: Ads, Separation of Church/State

Misleading Ads and Donation Backlash?

Close to $36 million was spent to stop gay marriage, while almost $38 million was raised in support of it. Some of the advertisements endorsing Prop 8 argued that if gay marriage remained legal, schools would be required to teach about gay marriage. The campaign against Prop 8 said that this correlation is completely false.

"Jeff, let me ask you. Were these ads talking about children being taught about gay marriage in the schools? Were those misleading? Were they unfair?" Dr. Phil asks the co-campaign manager for Yes on 8.

"They're absolutely not misleading because experience shows that in the states where gay marriage was legalized, children were taught about it in schools," Jeff says.

Joe argues, "First of all, what our community is upset about in this defeat is the fact that it was a defeat that was orchestrated on a bunch of lies, and you saw that in those television commercials. And it is why the superintendent of schools and the head of the school board were out there, trying to speak truth to these lies. They could not find an education official in the state to back up the claim that they were making."

"Just listen to this," Margaret says. "First they call you haters and bigots if you disagree with them on marriage, now they call you liars if you disagree with them on the consequences of gay marriage. The truth is, constitutional rights are generally taught about in public schools. I don't know about the Human Rights Campaign, but a number of the gay marriage equality groups were in Massachusetts, arguing in court that parents have no right to withdraw [kids] from instruction of gay marriage in schools. I guarantee you, that if we did not reverse Prop 8, that the first time a parent was finding out that a California school teacher was teaching their second-grader about gay marriage, and they went in and objected, and that hit the news, all of these groups would be saying, ‘Well, of course. What's your problem with teaching gay marriage? It's the law of the land.'"

"Gloria, I've never known you to be quiet for so long, so just weigh right in," Dr. Phil says.

"I'm really sorry that you didn't do your homework," Gloria tells Margaret, then turns back to Dr. Phil, "because let me tell you what the facts are, Dr. Phil. In August, a superior court judge in Sacramento County, Judge Frawley, found that the ballot argument of Yes on 8, in reference to children being required to learn that same-gender marriage is the same as traditional marriage, was a false argument and must be removed from the ballot argument of Yes on 8. False, in the words of the court itself. And the reason he found it to be false is in California, education code 890 allows any parent to remove their child from the class. No one is being required to learn about same-gender marriage."

Jim disagrees. "In states where we have this, in Lexington, Massachusetts, for example, they have opt out laws as well, but since " this is the way the judges rule " since same-sex marriage is legal, you cannot opt your child out of that. They were denied the privilege of doing that over and over, and made the appeal and went to court twice on this issue. The historical models all denied parents the right to teach what they want to teach."

"There's a flaw in that argument," Jeff says. "They're saying if it's not going to be taught in schools, then why do you need to opt out?"

"California Supreme Court said in ruling that everyone has a fundamental right to chose to marry the person who was otherwise eligible to be married," Gloria says, "that that is a fundamental right, that the children of same-gender couples are harmed if they cannot have their parents married in the same way that opposite-sex couples are married."

Joe speaks up. "Here's what's going on here: It's not as palatable or as popular as it used to be, to be a bigot, to be homophobic, so what are they doing here? They're changing the subject. They're talking about the unintended consequences: What's going to happen in school? The bottom line is we ought to have a conversation about the merits of marriage equality. You said before the break, you posed the question, ‘What rights are we losing here? What is the difference between civil unions and marriage?' There is a clear difference between civil unions and marriage, and the people in this audience who have been fighting for marriage equality clearly understand that."

There has been criticism of the Mormon and Catholic Church for supporting and funding the fight against gay marriage.

"Reverend Garlow, is this something where the church is getting into state business?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Well, it's very interesting. We talk about the separation of church and state, that comes from the writing of Thomas Jefferson January 1st, 1802, in a letter he wrote to Nathanial Dodge, and in that letter, he was not applying it the way it's being misapplied continually by those who want to silence any Christian. The fact is, I didn't check my brains or my convictions or my Bible when I formed my view. I have a right to form my view. They have a right to form a view in the exact same way, it's not a problem. But what they don't have a right to do is try to intimidate, to throw bricks through windows of churches, to paint swastikas on churches." Jim tells a story of a group of kids playing worship songs on the streets of San Francisco who were chased away by an angry mob. "That doesn't need to be happening. That needs to stop."

"Look, it is wrong to do those things, as it's wrong on the other side," Gavin says. "Let me assure you, Reverend, there was example after example during 2004 when we were doing the wedding ceremonies, example after example in the last months when we were doing weddings, where people disrupted those weddings, disrupted real people's lives. Let's not act as victims here … Look, we have not told the church what to believe on divorce. We haven't told the church what to believe on [the right to choose], on stem cell research, or on birth control. The religious institutions have been protected from civil laws and government organized points of view. And so that will maintain itself in a separate track on the issue of gay marriages as well. I don't think there is anything people of faith should be worried about in that respect."

"Have both sides had factions that have gone too far, threatened people, blacklisted people, done things to intimidate voters in this election?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I don't think that's true," Margaret says. "We uniformly condemn it. We don't have Web sites with the donors who voted no on Prop 8, kind of urging groups to try and go dig up attacks on them, calling up their businesses. We have at least two people who've lost their jobs, we have artists being blacklisted, and by the way, the problem is not that this is happening on the ground. The Los Angeles Times actually endorsed this horrifying ad targeting the LDS church, a religious minority … I don't think the ads that we ran in favor of Prop 8 can be described as anything like what was run against us on the other side, in terms of calling the people who disagree with us haters and targeting religious minorities. It is shameful."

"California just did something extraordinary. Californians, for the first time in their history, changed the Constitution to take people's rights away," Gavin says. "Tens of thousands of people's lives were devastated and uprooted. We changed the Constitution. The Constitution that, since the Bill of Rights, has been changed 17 times, each and every time to expand people's rights, not to deny people's rights. This was a devastating, devastating day for people."