Friday, November 7, 2008 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: New Hampshire Becomes First State Senate with Female...
2008-11-07

Progressives Celebrate (Another) Pro-Choice Victory in South Dakota, While Gearing for Challenge to California Gay Marriage Ban

Topics

Guests

Kristina Wilfore, Executive Director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

The more than 150 ballot measures voted on Tuesday night include the defeat, once again, of the abortion ban in South Dakota and the outlawing of anti-gay marriage in California. We speak to Kristina Wilfore of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

11/7/08 Segment Two

AMY GOODMAN:

Going back to the voting for president, President Barack Obama, Americans also voted Tuesday night on 153 ballot measures around the country. In a major victory for the pro-choice movement, voters rejected abortion bans in South Dakota and Colorado, but despite high Democratic voter turnout, not all socially progressive issues faired as well as many had hoped.

One of the biggest upsets was the opposition to gay marriage in California, Arizona and Florida. Thousands took to the streets of Los Angeles Wednesday for an hours-long protest against the passage of Prop 8, that will amend the state constitution to specify only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.

West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang and City Council member Abbe Land addressed protesters from atop a police car.


    ABBE LAND: I am Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land. This is the Mayor of West Hollywood. And we have been part of, you know, No on 8, and all of us coming together to express not the frustration we feel, the heartache we feel, but the determination that we feel that we are going to continue to fight, and none of us are going to give up, not us, not all of these people, until we win the rights for everyone to be in a committed marriage if that’s what they want to be.

    JEFFREY PRANG: Well, I first want to express my support for my colleague Abbe Land, who is a heterosexual and married. I am a gay man. I just got married about a week and a half ago. And I’ll tell you, there is nothing in the world that makes you more angry, that you’re the mayor of a city, you’ve got influence and authority, and they’re telling me that I’m a second-class citizen. That is just not right, and it’s not going to stand. But I know, as we all know, that history and justice are on our side, and we’re going to win this battle.

AMY GOODMAN:

People protesting the passage of Prop 8 in California. Three lawsuits have already been filed to challenge its passage. Less than six months ago, the California State Supreme Court had declared a gay marriage ban from 2000 was unconstitutional. Prop 8 was approved with 52 percent of the vote, or 400,000 votes.

We go now to Washington to Kristina Wilfore, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Kristina. Let’s start right here with this ballot initiative in California. One of the protests in Los Angeles was in front of the Mormon Church. Talk about how this Prop 8 passed.

KRISTINA WILFORE:

Well, you know, this is — continues to be a difficult ballot measure. We’ve had well over twenty votes on this across the country since 2004, even a couple even before that time. And let me say this. This is a sad day for the 18,000 couples who were married in California. It’s a sad day for this as a continued ballot measure fight. But this is not the last day. And if we really dig into some of the details here, I think we can put a different perspective on it.

If you look at the vote in 2000, when this was on the ballot in California, you see an incredible movement, more towards marriage equality — now, not enough to keep this law in place, but let’s not diminish that. It passed by 61 percent, I believe, originally in 2000. And look at, we couldn’t even call this vote until yesterday. That’s how close it was. So there is progress on this issue, even if we don’t see it in the actual ballot measure results.

AMY GOODMAN:

And talk not only about California, but Arizona and Florida, as well, huge defeat for gay men and women around this country.

KRISTINA WILFORE:

Florida, there was a sense, because of the domestic partnership benefits that are impacted, which is sad, which affects straight couples, too, which is why the Blue Cross/Blue Shield was even against the ballot measure, concerned about the impact on benefits, that that’s now in law.

Arizona went back to the ballot. Politicians pushed this, even though the voters had voted on a wider version in 2006, and it was the only state to have defeated this. They were outspent tremendously. The Mormon money, in terms of individual members of the Mormon Church that got together on this fight, I think that’s very questionable. You had, at one point, over half of the money coming into California. I believe you have about $3 million that came from members of the Mormon Church in Arizona. You know, I think they have some questions to answer. Why is this the priority that they’re organizing around, especially in light of so many other issues that are important to their membership, important to their religion? It’s very, very curious, very questionable who they’re aligning themselves with, many people who are not only anti-gay, but anti-Mormon, that are now part of their, I guess, growing coalition.

But I don’t think people should be too taken aback. This is a long-term struggle. Social movements don’t happen over time. If you look, even just back in California, the legislature has voted twice for marriage rights. You have more people who are more accepting of marriage equality in this country. You have young voters who are engaged and enthused around this issue. We will win this in the long term. It won’t likely be through the mechanism of ballot measures.

AMY GOODMAN:

Also in California, Kristina Wilfore, Prop 5, which was easing punishments for drug offenders, defeated.

KRISTINA WILFORE:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. You know, there are some issues around criminal justice, and I think if you look at some results in some other states, in Massachusetts, it’s a decriminalization measure, it’s making, you know, a small amount of marijuana a non-punishable crime. And I think that what we’re seeing is a shift in other parts. In Michigan, there’s also medicinal marijuana. We’re starting, slowly but surely, to look at these issues from a health perspective, from a budget perspective. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in California, but I think that we’re trending the other way in some of these other states.

But I do want to — I guess partly because we led off with marriage and partly because you get sort of this — the headlines of the news coverage of ballot measures that this is overall [inaudible]. Let me be very clear, after having been engaged with ballot measures for well over seven years, exclusively studying, looking, involved in campaigns, this was not a mixed-bag year. This was a huge year for progressive victories. Many, many right-wing measures outside of California were shut down in other states. And I don’t want to diminish the importance of that. This is a change election, and we even saw that through these ballot measure results.

AMY GOODMAN:

Outside the defeat of the abortion ban, which I’m going to go to in a minute, talk about some of those progressive victories.

KRISTINA WILFORE:

Mm-hmm. The first time we have ever beaten affirmative action ban, a rollback of equal opportunity programs, happened in Colorado. The votes were called last night. It was a close election. Ward Connerly is going to have a lot of explaining to do to his set of wealthy extremist donors. He started in 2008 with the notion of doing eleven states to ban equal opportunity. He got funding for five. He failed to qualify through fraudulent signature gathering. Many, many problems in Missouri, Arizona and other states where he attempted to get this on the ballot, Oklahoma. And then he ended up with two states, Colorado and Nebraska. And so, the only state that he actually passed this in, the reddest of red states, by a pretty narrow margin, was Nebraska. And in Colorado, he was beaten back.

And what we uncovered in this last year of really focusing on him and what is this all about, he has personally pocketed from his two nonprofit organizations in the tune of $7.6 million, that he has put, you know, in his own pocket to do these ballot measures. He actually has taken an affirmative action contract from the state of California by proving that he was a minority-owned business in 1997 before he started this agenda. He is mostly funded by extremists and many wealthy white developers, who just don’t want to compete with women and minority-owned contracting. So, in reality, I think we’ve seen this election cycle, the one color Ward Connerly cares about is green. And voters are responding.

This agenda is not appropriate. This is not about Barack Obama or Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton being able to run for public office. This is about the real programs that are needed to create a level playing field. And we need these programs. I’m a personal beneficiary. Most white women who were able to go to college and move professionally have, in some ways, benefited from affirmative action. So I think this is an historic victory that we shouldn’t diminish, even if there’s, you know, some difficult fights, hard fought, that lost in other states.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re also joined by Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. Sarah Stoesz, what happened in South Dakota, an anti-choice state? You defeated an abortion ban.

SARAH STOESZ:

We defeated an abortion ban this time in 2008 by eleven points, but I’d like to also point out that in 2006 we defeated a similar ban, much more harsh, by one point more, by twelve points. But in the case of 2006, we were actually the initiators of this ballot initiative. And so, one thing I think we should consider, just from the progressive standpoint, is whether we ought to begin thinking about ballot initiatives as a progressive strategy, not just reacting to what the right wing brings to us and always being on the defensive, but considering bringing forth these things proactively. That’s what we did in 2006, and we won. Now, we reacted in 2008, and we again —

AMY GOODMAN:

In 2006, it was what?

SARAH STOESZ:

It was a complete and total ban on abortion in 2006 that the legislature passed, the governor signed, and as a result of that, we formed a coalition, the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which was a very broad-based coalition in South Dakota, which really lacks, to any great extent, any sort of a permanent progressive political agenda and political coalition. Now we have one, fortunately. So, the ban passed. It was signed. We formed a coalition and were able to collect the signatures and put the ban on the ballot, defeated it. The right wing came back this year, collected their own signatures and put a ban on the ballot that contained exceptions this time. In 2006, there were no exceptions.

AMY GOODMAN:

This is rape, incest, health of the mother?

SARAH STOESZ:

Rape, incest, health of women, correct. And we actually started twenty-eight points behind this time.

AMY GOODMAN:

So, how did you organize?

SARAH STOESZ:

Well, it was very grassroots, door-to-door, classic political grassroots organizing, in coalition with others, not just Planned Parenthood, but a very broad coalition that contained a lot of different kinds of people.

AMY GOODMAN:

So, you had a lot of anti-choice people who voted against the abortion ban.

SARAH STOESZ:

Yeah, it’s really important.

AMY GOODMAN:

Why?

SARAH STOESZ:

Because I think that the strategy of the anti-choicers has been to convince legislators that this is what the people want. They scare politicians into thinking that they will lose their office if they don’t do what the common myth says that they should do, especially in places like South Dakota, and that’s ban abortion. So, when we have an opportunity to take the discussion directly to the people, as we do in the case of a ballot initiative, we can demonstrate that, in fact, that this isn’t what people want.

AMY GOODMAN:

How interesting that a red state, California, defeats gay marriage, for the moment, right, in a ballot initiative — rather, in California, a blue state.

SARAH STOESZ:

Right.

AMY GOODMAN:

A red state, South Dakota, which is also fiercely anti-choice, defeats an abortion ban.

SARAH STOESZ:

Yes, exactly. But, you know, again, we have been organizing in a very direct, voter-to-voter, neighbor-to-neighbor, family-to-family way in South Dakota now for several years. This ballot initiative and the abortion ban in 2006 gave us the opportunity to do this, and it was a gift, in fact.

AMY GOODMAN:

Very quickly, Minnesota, that’s where you’re based.

SARAH STOESZ: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN:

Big race right now, still unresolved, very anti-choice senator, Norm Coleman —

SARAH STOESZ: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:

—- slightly, few ballot -— few votes ahead of Al Franken.

SARAH STOESZ:

That’s right. 200 votes ahead at this point.

AMY GOODMAN:

So there’s going to be a recount.

SARAH STOESZ:

There will be a recount, a very laborious recount of three million votes by hand, county by county.

AMY GOODMAN:

Any comments?

SARAH STOESZ:

Well, you know, first of all, we don’t have any hanging chads in Minnesota. That’s a really good thing. We have optical scanners, so we actually will be able to have a fair recount. It will be very, very expensive. And again, it’s an opportunity for the left to get very, very mobilized and focused. And so, the campaign continues.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, I want to thank you, Sarah Stoesz, for being with us, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. And thanks so much to Kristina Wilfore, who joined us from Washington, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Recent Shows More

Full News Hour

Stories

Headlines

    There are no headlines for this date.


Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.