Although Alameda County voters decisively opposed it and UC Berkeley student groups repeatedly rallied against it, the majority of Californians supported Proposition 8 at the polls yesterday, eliminating same-sex marriage from the state constitution.
The results remained too close to call until early this morning, but at 1 a.m., after a $70 million battle and four years of court cases, controversy and campaigning, the proposition passed with 52.6 percent of votes.
The proposition will reverse the California Supreme Court decision earlier this year that expanded marriage to include same-sex couples, instead defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Berkeley residents Jody Sokolower and her partner of 36 years, Karen Shain-two plaintiffs in the court case that allowed same-couples to marry-got up at the break of dawn to vote down the proposition. At 11 p.m., when they went to sleep, the proposition was still in limbo.
"We're so happy about Obama," Sokolower said after the presidential election results were released. "If we lose on (Proposition) 8, that'll be really upsetting, but there's always next time."
The campaign for the proposition witnessed growing momentum in the weeks leading up to the election, said Chip White, spokesperson for the Yes on 8 campaign.
White, a UC Berkeley alumnus, said both sides spent more than $30 million on their respective campaigns, the highest dollar amount spent on any proposition on a social issue. According to White, 100,000 volunteers campaigned with Yes on 8.
Those against the proposition put forth an equally vigorous effort. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, known for his controversial move to issue marriage licenses to more than 4,000 same-sex couples in 2004, was a major player in the campaign on college campuses.
"You cannot build a society unless you have a level playing field for everyone to participate," Newsom said during a guest lecture at UC Berkeley last month.
Newsom, who also led a campus rally against the proposition, underscored the importance of ensuring fundamental human rights and setting an example for the rest of the nation, ideas echoed by members of the Vote Down 4 and 8 Coalition at UC Berkeley.
"As much as I think this is a step backwards, I think as Californians who believe in fairness and equality what we have accomplished is amazing," said senior Phillip Alvarado, co-campus campaign manager of the coalition. "We've come together as a community, and this kind of work is unprecedented. It has not happened before, not on this level."
Josh Curtis, who is the president of the Berkeley College Republicans and voted for the proposition, said he believed the proposition's success points to how most Californians view marriage.
"I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of Americans are for a traditional definition of marriage and I think that these results are just revealing that fact," Curtis said.
But Sokolower said it was important to keep the defeat of same-sex marriage in perspective. Although Californians passed the proposition this year, she said she hoped they would overturn it in the future.
"I don't think this is over," Sokolower said. "I think this is an idea whose time has come, and I feel really confident that this is an era in which homophobia is going to fall."