A think tank has compiled and analyzed reports of the harassment, intimidation, and “gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry” shown in reaction to the successful passage of Proposition 8. If partisans of marriage redefinition continue to increase in power, the analysis warns, those who seek the preservation of marriage as a union of man and wife may risk paying a price legally, socially and economically. The Heritage Foundation’s Oct. 22 report “The Price of Prop 8,” authored by researcher Thomas M. Messner, said that many individuals and institutions who defend the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman have paid a “heavy price.”
Militant opponents of Prop. 8 targeted supporters with a range of hostility, including “harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry,” the report stated.
Vandalism included a brick thrown through the window of an elderly couple who put a “Yes on 8” sign in their lawn. Another senior citizen with a pro-Prop. 8 bumper sticker had her car’s rear window smashed.
A statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church was vandalized with orange paint. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside, signs were twisted into the shape of a swastika.
A heavy object wrapped with a “Yes on 8” sign was used to smash the window of a pastor’s office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.
Sign theft targeting Prop. 8 supporters was significant, with one source estimating about one-third of the 25,000 signs distributed were stolen or vandalized before the end of the campaign.
Phone calls, e-mails and mailings also targeted supporters of Prop. 8. The messages made accusation of bigotry and used vulgar language. One e-mail threatened to contact the parents of students at a school where a particular Prop. 8 supporter worked.
One individual supporter was the subject of a flier distributed in his town. The flier included his photo and name and the amount of his donation to the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. It labeled him as a “bigot” and reported his association with a particular Catholic church.
Increased support for Prop. 8 among African Americans and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as Mormons, also resulted in their communities being targeted.
Racial epithets were used at anti-Prop. 8 protests, while Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, targeted the Mormons.
On the Dr. Phil show, responding to a Mormon questioner, he replied: “We are going to go after your church every day for the next two years unless and until Prop 8 is overturned.”
An anti-Prop. 8 advertisement depicted two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, ransacking their belongings and tearing up their marriage license.
“Anti-Mormon malice reached a new level when someone mailed packages containing suspicious white powder to Mormon temples in California and Utah,” Messner said.
Jose Nunez, a new U.S. citizen, was waiting to distribute signs outside his Catholic church when a man grabbed several signs and fled. He pursued the thief, who reportedly yelled “What do you have against gays?” and punched him in the face.
Nunez suffered a bloody eye and wounds to his face and required 16 stitches under his eye.
Employees of businesses were targeted by some protesters. Some employees resigned, while others took leaves of absence. Some business owners lost business because they had donated to support Prop. 8.
While deeming boycotts a “time-honored form of activism,” the Heritage Foundation’s report commented: “No individual should be compelled to choose between making a living and participating in democratic processes affecting fundamental matters of public concern, such as marriage.”
California law requiring the disclosure of personal information of individuals who donate $100 or more to a ballot measure campaign have made such displays of hostility easier, the report said. Several websites were designed to use the information to identify and target Prop. 8 supporters.
While acknowledging that many Prop. 8 opponents have rejected such abuses, Messner argues that the ideology underlying the outrage is a cause of hostility.
“Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that limiting marriage to the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons who want the state to license their relationships. As this ideology seeps into the culture, belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife will likely come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from society through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.”
“Individuals or institutions that publicly defend marriage as the union of husband and wife risk harassment, reprisal, and intimidation—at least some of it targeted and coordinated,” Messner continued.