Jane Wishon, who has been married to her husband for 37 years and who has three kids, says her own experience points to California’s broader post-Prop. 8 transformation. An elder in the Presbyterian church, she says she grew up with the solid conviction that marriage was simply between a man and a woman. Her husband suggested to her that “separate but equal is never really equal,” but while she had no animus toward gays, she felt unbudgeable on the issue: “Like red is just red.”
Then she stood near the signature gatherers for Prop. 8. She was only trying to help – explaining to people the complicated fact that a “yes” for Prop. 8 meant “no” to gay marriage and that a “no” meant “yes” to gay marriage. But some people had thought she was a gay-rights activist.
“They just treated me differently,” she says. Many kept a conspicuous distance.
“I realized what LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people put up with day after day, and that cemented my support for equality,” she says.
Later, getting involved with a marriage-equality group, she met many gays who wanted to get married.
“I realized here was a whole group of people who simply loved others and wanted to spend their lives together but were never shown the respect and dignity that comes with marriage,” she says.
She doesn’t want to tell others what to think, but suggests that the American government is not living up to its promise of “all men are created equal.”
Ironically, Prop. 8 helped the gay-rights cause in California, activists say.
“Prop. 8 really activated the gay community in the state,” says Michael McKeon of Love, Honor, Cherish, a group that formed in Los Angeles to fight for marriage equality in 2008.
“Nobody really thought it would pass, but when it did, I realized I had to do something, and get involved,” he says.
Dozens of teams began a focused, door-knocking campaign, with he and his partner of 15 years spending many hours talking to people and explaining the issues. “We introduced ourselves, talked about who we were and why the stakes were so important,” he says. “We had thousands of conversations ... and we changed people's minds.”