How Did Proposition 8 Pass in California?

12/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I think it's a question on the minds of many. In typically conservative states Florida and Arizona, which had similar measures on their ballots, it wasn't such a surprise. But when I think of California, the state's outspoken and progressive LGBTQ community is one of the first things that comes to my mind, leaving me to wonder: What the hell happened last week?

Then I think back to filling out my California absentee ballot nearly a month ago. I spent about an hour on it, but it wasn't because I was mulling over all my decisions. At least 10-15 minutes of that time was spent reading and re-reading Prop 8.

I had been watching the news religiously, had election discussions with friends, I even watched my best friend buy a "No on Prop 8" bumper sticker and took a photo with it. I was so certain I was supposed to vote "no" but when I read my ballot I thought: "should I be marking 'yes'?"


It wasn't because I had a sudden change of heart but because the measure was so poorly written. The statement used a double negative, making me think I was voting the wrong way. It seemed like voting "no" would mean voting against gay marriage. I had to check the California Democratic Party Web site and call my friend with the bumper sticker before I believed that marking "no" was correct.

According to the California Secretary of State Voter's Guide, the first line of the measure read: "Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry."

In essence, voting "no" meant "to not eliminate" gay marriage. Who says that? No one. In fact, I've been taught in writing classes that this would be poor English. The ballot should have read "maintains" instead, making it a positive statement rather than a negative one.

Of course there are other reasons the proposition passed -- the typically Catholic Hispanic base and the ads that told parents their kids would be taught gay marriage in school, for starters -- but to me, the inability to effectively communicate the proposition's message is the most unfortunate. It seems like it should be such a simple fix.

Protests on Prop 8 are being held throughout the country this weekend. Show your support.