Abstract: Supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to 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. Arguments for same-sex marriage 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. As this ideology seeps into the culture more generally, individuals and institutions that support marriage as the union of husband and wife risk paying a price for that belief in many legal, social, economic, and cultural contexts.
Support for Proposition 8, the democratically established marriage amendment in California, has come with a heavy price for many individuals and institutions that think that marriage should remain the union of husband and wife. Publicly available sources, including evidence submitted in a federal lawsuit in California, show that expressions of support for Prop 8 have generated a range of hostilities and harms that includes 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. Because the issue of marriage is still very much alive in California and throughout the nation, the naked animus manifested against people and groups that supported Prop 8 raises serious questions that should concern anyone interested in promoting civil society, democratic processes, and reasoned discourse on important matters of public policy, such as marriage.
Donor Disclosure Laws in the Internet Age
Much of the hostility directed against Prop 8 supporters has been facilitated by a California law that requires the disclosure of certain personal information of individuals who donate $100 or more in support of or opposition to a ballot measure. Information subject to disclosure includes the donor's full name, occupation, and employer. Once this information is disclosed to the State of California, the state then publishes this information on its Web site, enabling anyone with Internet access to view detailed donor reports online in html format or in a downloadable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
With this information at hand, several Web sites have been designed that facilitate the easy identification and targeting of Prop 8 supporters. For example, one of these Web sites is a GoogleMaps "mashup" that combines donor information with an interactive map, allowing activists to ascertain the identity, employer, amount of donation, and approximate location of certain Prop 8 supporters in particular geographic areas. A Web site called "Californians Against Hate" highlights particular Prop 8 supporters in its "Dishonor Roll" and provides addresses and telephone numbers for some of them. At least one Web site allows users to search for Prop 8 supporters who work in their businesses.
Because of the California donor disclosure law, some Prop 8 supporters have become targets without ever placing a sign in their yard, putting a sticker on their car, or appearing at a public rally. These more public forms of support for Prop 8 certainly generated plenty of animosity, as documented below. However, many individuals became targets for harassment, intimidation, and reprisals simply for donating $100 or more in support of Prop 8.
Vandalism and Sign Theft
Many reports of hostility toward Prop 8 supporters involve acts of vandalism. An elderly couple who put a Yes on 8 sign in their yard had a block thrown through their window. A senior citizen who placed a pro-Prop-8 bumper sticker on her car had her car's rear window smashed in. Some individuals with pro-Prop-8 bumper stickers had their cars keyed. One woman with a "One Man, One Woman" bumper sticker had her car keyed and tires deflated while she was in a grocery store. One man who placed signs in his yard and stickers on his cars and motorbike reported that someone egged and floured his home three times and egged, floured, and honeyed his car twice. Someone also pushed over the man's motorbike and scraped the bumper stickers off the back glass windows of his cars. Several other individuals reported that Yes on Prop 8 bumper stickers were scraped or ripped off their vehicles or defaced.
Some individuals found their property vandalized with spray paint. Vandals spray-painted vehicles, garages, fences, and Yes on 8 signs in Yucaipa, California. An Alta Loma resident who placed a Yes on 8 sign in her yard found the words "love for all" and "no on 8" spray-painted on her fifth-wheel trailer. In San Jose, vandals spray-painted the garage doors of two homeowners who displayed signs supporting Prop 8. Vandals also spray-painted anti-Prop-8 messages on commercial and residential buildings in Fullerton.
Other forms of vandalism were more bizarre. One woman who placed a pro-Prop-8 sign on her balcony reported finding that her staircase leading downstairs had been covered in urine. She also found a puddle of urine at the bottom of the stairs.
Vandals also hit houses of worship. Perpetrators used orange paint to vandalize a statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church. Offices at the Cornerstone Church in Fresno were egged. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco, a parish known widely as being "gay-friendly." In San Luis Obispo, the Assembly of God Church was egged and toilet-papered, and a Mormon church had an adhesive poured onto a doormat and keypad. Signs supporting Prop 8 were twisted into a swastika at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside. Someone used a heavy object wrapped with a Yes on 8 sign to smash the window of a pastor's office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.
In addition, reports of Yes on Prop 8 signs being defaced, damaged, dislocated, or stolen are almost too numerous to track reliably. According to one source, the Yes on 8 campaign estimated that approximately one-third of an estimated 25,000 signs distributed in California were stolen or vandalized before the campaign ended. Prop 8 supporters who replaced stolen signs often had their signs stolen again. Sign thefts also often involved the added element of trespass or fear of trespass. In some cases, perpetrators crossed fences and walls to steal signs or removed signs that had been securely fastened in place. One individual reported coming home late and hearing male voices outside her home. Another individual reported that a suspected perpetrator quickly drove away when spotted through the front window of his house.
Harassment, Hostility, and Slurs
Several individuals who supported Proposition 8 reported receiving harassing telephone calls, e-mails, and mailings. Prop 8 supporters have reported receiving phone calls and voice mails calling them "bigot" and using vulgar language. Sometimes harassers called at work. A public relations firm hired by the Yes on 8 Campaign received so many harassing phone calls from one person that the sheriff's office became involved. Other Prop 8 supporters received e-mails, letters, and postcards using vulgar language and offensive labels like "gay hater." Through the contact form on his business's Web site, one individual received an e-mail stating "burn in hell." One e-mail threatened to contact the parents of students at a school where a particular Prop 8 supporter worked.
Harassment sometimes took other forms. For example, two women painted an arrow and the words "Bigots live here" on the window of an SUV and parked the vehicle in front of a household that had supported Prop 8. In another case, an individual who supported Prop 8 found himself the subject of a flyer distributed in his town. The flyer included a photo of him, labeled him a "Bigot," and stated his name, the amount of his donation to Prop 8, and his association with a particular Catholic Church. At the University of California, Davis, a Yes on 8 table on the quad was reportedly attacked by a group of students throwing water balloons and shouting "you teach hate." A professor at Los Angeles City College allegedly told students in his class, "If you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist [expletive deleted]." One Prop 8 supporter received a book, sent anonymously through Amazon.com, that contained "the greatest homosexual love stories of all time."
Prop 8 supporters holding signs in public places also reported incidents of notable hostility. One woman who stood near a street with a Yes on 8 sign reported that a man stopped his car and shouted at her, "You despicable filthy bag of [expletive deleted]." Other drivers circled the block and yelled things like "You [expletive deleted]" each time they drove by her. Once a car with several men stopped, and a man in the back seat opened the door and threw something at her. Another driver stopped her car and yelled, "Get the [expletive deleted] out of here. Who do you think you are, bringing that hate into my neighborhood?" One Prop 8 supporter who witnessed repeated vulgarities at sign-waving events said she felt nervous and scared and chose not to take her children with her. Another Prop 8 supporter concluded that in the future she would make sure that at least one man was with each group of wavers to ensure the protection and safety of the teenagers who participated.
Prop 8 also triggered hostility against African-Americans, who were reported to have supported the ballot measure by large margins. "According to eyewitness reports published on the Internet," states one news source, "racial epithets have been used against African Americans at protests in California -- with some even directed against blacks who are fighting to repeal Prop. 8." One man, for example, reported he was called a particular racial slur twice and said the anti-Prop-8 protest he attended "was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks." Another man reported that "he and his boyfriend, who are both black, were carrying NO ON PROP 8 signs and still subjected to racial abuse."
"Mormons in the Crosshairs" 
Mormons were particularly and systematically targeted for supporting Prop 8. One leading gay-rights activist in West Hollywood said, "The main finger we are pointing is at the Mormon church'" Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, echoed this sentiment on the Dr. Phil show when, in response to a question from a Mormon audience member asking why his church was being targeted, he reportedly declared, "We are going to go after your church every day for the next two years unless and until Prop 8 is overturned." At least one of the Web sites targeting Prop 8 donors focuses specifically on Mormons. And one anti-Prop-8 activist has filed a complaint asking California officials to investigate the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its support for the marriage amendment.
The "Home Invasion" television ad, in particular, sought to exploit anti-Mormon bigotry for political gain. The ad depicts two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, ransacking their belongings, and tearing up their marriage license. "Hi, we're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," says one of the Mormon missionaries. "We're here to take away your rights," says the other. The ad concludes with script and a voiceover stating, "Say NO to a Church taking over your government. Vote NO on Proposition 8." This manifestation of undisguised religious bigotry undoubtedly caused great concern to many people. The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, lamented that same-sex marriage activists had failed to air more "hard-hitting" ads like it.
After Prop 8 passed, crowds of same-sex marriage activists congregated for protests at Mormon houses of worship throughout the nation. One video shows same-sex marriage activists massed outside the Mormon temple in New York City crying "fascist church" repeatedly. Another video appears to show angry activists rattling the gates of the temple in Los Angeles and chanting "shame on you." Images from various protests show signs like "Mormon Scum," "Get your filthy church off me," and "Keep your hate in Salt Lake."
Anti-Mormon malice reached a new level when someone mailed
packages containing suspicious white powder to Mormon temples in
California and Utah. At least one of those incidents triggered
Violence and Threats of Violence
Some of the animosity directed against people and groups that supported Prop 8 was openly threatening or even violent. In Modesto, for example, a Prop 8 supporter was allegedly punched in the face by someone who had stolen several Yes on 8 signs. According to news reports, Jose Nunez, who became a U.S. citizen just months before Prop 8 passed, was waiting to distribute signs outside his Catholic church when a man grabbed several Yes on 8 signs and fled. When Nunez followed the thief and tried to recover the signs, the thief reportedly yelled "What do you have against gays?" and punched Nunez in the face. According to Prop 8 supporters, Nunez suffered a bloody eye and wounds to his face and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital "where he received 16 stitches under his eye."
In Fresno, the town mayor received a death threat for supporting Prop 8. The threat stated, "Hey Bubba, you really acted like a real idiot at the Yes of [sic] Prop 8 Rally this past weekend. Consider yourself lucky. If I had a gun I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter." The threat also mentioned a "little surprise" for a local pastor who supported Prop 8 and "his congregation of lowlife's" [sic]. "Keep letting him preach hate and he'll be sorry," the perpetrator threatened. "He will be meeting his maker sooner than expected." The threat also stated that anyone in Fresno displaying a Yes on Prop 8 yard sign or bumper sticker was "in danger of being shot or firebombed." Police took the threat seriously, launching a criminal investigation and taking extra steps to protect the mayor and pastor.
In another incident, an elderly woman in Palm Springs was besieged by an angry mob protesting Prop 8. Video footage posted on the Internet shows several men shouting at the woman as a television reporter tries to interview her. "Get out of here," one man shouts in the elderly woman's face. Later the video shows the woman, who is carrying a large cross at this point, surrounded by several men, including at least one who knocks the cross out of the woman's hands and stomps on it. Someone also reportedly spit on the 69-year-old lady.
A small group of Christians encountered similar hostilities when an angry crowd apparently took them for pro-Prop 8 demonstrators as they prayed and sang hymns on a sidewalk in the Castro District of San Francisco. One of the Christians reportedly later stated that the people in the crowd shouted words like "haters" and "bigots" and then "started throwing hot coffee, soda and alcohol on us and spitting (and maybe even peeing) on us." Someone in the crowd allegedly threatened to kill the group's leader, and someone else allegedly tried to pull down the pants of one of the men in the group. A woman in the group was allegedly struck on the head with her own Bible before being thrown to the ground and kicked. Video footage posted on the Internet shows a band of police officers dressed in riot gear fending off the angry crowd and escorting the Christians to safety.
Employees and Business Owners Targeted
Same-sex marriage activists have also targeted the places where Prop 8 supporters work. Businesses and other institutions that employ individuals who personally donated to Prop 8 have been threatened with and in some cases subjected to picketing, protests, and damaging boycotts. Some Prop 8 donors resigned from their jobs or took a leave of absence to protect their employers and colleagues.
For example, Scott Eckern was employed as the director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater in Sacramento before being targeted for personally donating $1,000 to Prop 8. Once Mr. Eckern's support for Prop 8 was discovered, the theater was "deluged" with criticism from prominent artists who opposed Prop 8. Critics included Marc Shaiman, the composer of Hairspray, who stated that his work could not be performed at the theater because of Mr. Eckern's support for Prop 8. Mr. Eckern resigned.
Richard Raddon was the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival before he landed in the crosshairs of Prop 8 opponents. Mr. Raddon personally donated $1,500 to Prop 8. As in the case of Mr. Eckern, once information about Mr. Raddon's personal donation was disclosed to the state and published on the Internet, he became a target of Prop 8 opponents. According to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, "A threatened boycott and picketing of the next festival forced him to resign."
The extreme nature of this crude, but effective new tactic was poignantly illustrated in the case of Marjorie Christoffersen, a 67-year-old restaurant employee who donated a mere $100 to Prop 8. Once information about Ms. Christoffersen's $100 donation was published on the Internet, Prop 8 opponents launched a protest against the restaurant where she worked, prompting the restaurant to offer activists a free brunch and Ms. Christoffersen to offer an apology. However, when Ms. Christoffersen refused to renounce her support for Prop 8 -- like Scott Eckern and Richard Raddon, Marjorie Christoffersen is a Mormon -- the meeting "turned ugly" and "[b]oisterous street protests erupted that night." Ms. Christoffersen eventually decided to take a leave of absence to protect the restaurant, which is owned by her mother, and the other employees who worked there.
In other cases, business owners who supported Prop 8 either personally or through their enterprises have had their businesses targeted for reprisals by same-sex marriage activists. A dentist in Palo Alto lost patients because he donated $1,000. Purves & Associates, an insurance company in Davis, was picketed with signs such as "Purves Family Supports Homophobia" after family members donated to Prop 8. Protesters rallied and handed out free ice cream to retaliate against a family-owned creamery that supported Prop 8. Activists boycotted the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego because its developer donated money to help to put Prop 8 on the ballot. Same-sex marriage activists also targeted a self-storage company because its owner and his family donated money to Prop 8.
Boycotting businesses that engage in commercial behavior consumers find objectionable is a time-honored form of activism in American society. However, targeting businesses for the political and religious views of their owners or even their employees -- and the decision of these individuals to participate in democratic political processes -- has raised serious concerns about the state of public discourse regarding marriage and the condition of civil society generally. 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.
Beyond Prop 8
The weeks and months after Prop 8 passed also witnessed other incidents of hostility directed against expressions of support for traditional views on marriage and homosexuality. Some of these incidents were not directly connected with support for Prop 8, which suggests, grimly, that some of the hostilities described in this paper could become more common in political contests concerning same-sex marriage and other issues involving homosexuality.
In one disturbing incident just days after Prop 8 passed, a radical group called "Bash Back!" allegedly invaded a Christian church in Michigan. The group's Web site featured photos of members dressed like terrorists and brandishing various objects as weapons. A press release posted by the Alliance Defense Fund, a public interest legal association that is suing the openly anarchist group in federal court, states:
[M]embers of the group dressed in militant garb staged a protest outside the church during a worship service to distract security personnel, blocking access to the building and parking lot at various times. Other members of the group dressed in plain clothes then deceptively entered the building. At a coordinated time, they sprang up to disrupt the service, terrifying many attendees. The group shouted religious slurs, unfurled a sign, and threw fliers around the sanctuary while two women began kissing near the podium. The group pulled fire alarms as they ran out of the building.
In accounts allegedly posted on the Internet after the invasion, Bash Back! described the Mount Hope Church as a "deplorable, anti-queer mega-church" that is "complicit in the repression of queers in Michigan and beyond" and cited the church's "stance on queer identities" as one reason for the attack.
Another case, more widely reported than the church invasion in Michigan, involved Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA beauty contestant. Ms. Prejean was competing in the final round of the Miss USA pageant when she drew a question from pageant judge Perez Hilton about legalizing same-sex marriage. Ms. Prejean's answer -- that, in her view, marriage should be between a man and a woman -- generated a tidal wave of criticism, including from Mr. Hilton, who later described Ms. Prejean in crude and derogatory terms in a video blog on his Web site. A co-director of the Miss California association also condemned Ms. Prejean, stating that "[r]eligious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss CA family." Both Ms. Prejean and Mr. Hilton have speculated that her answer cost her the crown.
Lessons of Prop 8 Hostilities
Several anti-Prop-8 activists have condemned certain types of hostility described in this paper. Some of the incidents described in this paper have involved illegal conduct, meaning the wider community has already condemned it. Some acts of hostility have been perpetrated by random individuals acting in isolation or by unpredictable crowds expressing anger and frustration.
Yet none of these facts changes the reality that many Prop 8 supporters have paid a considerable price for defending marriage as the union of husband and wife. Indeed, no matter who is to blame for the hostility surrounding Prop 8, one lesson of Prop 8 cannot be denied: 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.
Furthermore, although some same-sex marriage activists have expressed disagreement with certain types of conduct described in this paper, few activists would disavow the ideology underlying much of the outrage at Prop 8's success. Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that preserving marriage as unions 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 increasing numbers of individuals and institutions, including public officials and governmental bodies, embrace this ideology, belief in marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman likely will come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from public life through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.
Other sources have explained how changes in law based on this ideology will threaten the religious liberties of individuals and institutions that interact with the government or become subject to nondiscrimination laws. The hostility surrounding Prop 8 shows how, once this ideology seeps into the culture more generally, individuals and institutions that support marriage as the union of husband and wife risk paying a price for that belief in many legal, social, economic, and cultural contexts.
When people stand firmly by their beliefs about marriage as the union of husband and wife despite facing social stigmatization, economic hardship, and other reprisals, they provide an important example of civic courage and inspire particular virtues that are essential to the proper functioning of any free and open society. The freedom of parties on both sides of the marriage debate to voice their views and to promote them in public policy should be respected.
Thomas M. Messner is a Visiting Fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.