Gearing Up for a Fight: The Right’s Campaign Against Marriage Equality in California

Picking up where they left off on their July 30 conference call, anti-gay pastors at an estimated 170-180 locations in Arizona, California, and Florida reconvened for the third of seven conference calls between now and November, once more employing violent language and false information to exploit some voters’ fears and portray marriage equality as a threat to children and to religious liberty.

Gary Lawrence, principal of Lawrence Research, an opinion-polling firm based in Santa Ana, told pastors, “What we have found is that when you talk about the consequences, when you talk about the future — especially the consequences to our children and our grandchildren — then the tides begin to turn.”

Lawrence cited California Education Code 51890, which he said requires health education teachers to tell students about marriage. If Proposition 8 fails, he claimed that health education teachers will have to tell children about gay marriage. Under this argument, he claims to have changed the minds of 60 percent of the people he talked to who said they were going to vote “No” on Proposition 8.

As Goes California…

What happens in California, according to The Call founder Lou Engle, will spread all over the world. Reiterating Chuck Colson’s message in July that this is the “Armageddon of the culture war,” Engle, whose group holds cross-denominational events to promote spiritual awakening, declared “we’re on death ground… Literally, there is no tomorrow.” He continued, “we need to pray in this spiritual battle like there is no tomorrow.”

Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif., echoed Engle’s urgency, saying that if they were to lose this campaign, in two to five years, those who believe in the Bible would be “functionally illegal.” Another speaker suggested falsely that a month after Election Day, a gay couple could sue a pastor for refusing to marry them.

The numbers that matter, says, Garlow: 36, 22, 16, 12, 7:

  • 36 million people in the state
  • 22 million people who are eligible to vote
  • 16 million people who are registered to vote
  • 12 million people who will vote
  • 7 million people needed to vote Yes on Prop 8 to win

Planning on Mass Mobilization

The stakes couldn’t be greater for the right-wing, so they are bringing out their top guns:

They’re canvassing the entire state of California by Election Day. They noted there are 1600 zip codes in the state. They are soliciting 40 volunteers in each zip code to volunteer, ultimately bringing aboard 64,000 volunteers to go door-to-door between now and November. The goal is to have 100,000 people volunteering on Election Day. The door-to-door canvassing is already underway, but there was a push on the call for more volunteers. On Election Day, at 1 pm and 4 pm, each polling place is required to list who has voted. Volunteers with the Protect Marriage campaign will check the list at these times to identify “Yes on Prop 8” voters who they identified through calls and have not voted. Through local volunteers, they’re planning to dispatch people to the homes of those who haven’t voted to encourage them to vote.

Much of the call focused on outreach to California’s young adults. There’s a huge push for the youth vote by the campaign — from their youth-focused website,, and their MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter pages for supporters to send to friends. On October 1, The Rock Church in San Diego is hosting an iProtectMarriage Rally, hoping to assemble thousands of young adults and parents from California, Arizona, and Florida. The rally will feature yet-to-be-named celebrities, sports figures, and musicians. The Protect Marriage campaign is planning to mobilize 300,000 young people to get eight of their friends to vote. The goal: 2.4 million yes votes for Proposition 8.

Throughout September and October, they’re planning a “Church Call Campaign” for all supportive churches. Pastors were asked to make their entire church database accessible to Church Call campaign managers, so that members can call and identify people who support Proposition 8. Volunteers are to identify people who support Proposition 8, and encourage all non-registered Proposition 8 yes voters to register and vote by mail. Churches will be calling people in their database Sunday through Thursday, between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. To drive home the necessity for personal phone calls from friendly voices, they pointed to scientific evidence on the effects of different campaign outreach methods, citing volunteer phone banks as five times more effective than direct mailings, and 100 times more effective than robocalls. Garlow called for 1000 churches across California to call everyone in their database, although he said he was actually hoping for 2000 churches to do so.

The advocacy phase of the campaign begins mid-September. In this phase, they’re attempting to shore up soft support and persuade undecided voters to vote Yes on 8.

The Protect Marriage Campaign has a secret weapon, according to one pastor on the call: people of faith going door-to-door speaking to their neighbors. “We have Jesus and truth on our side,” said Garlow, “and we also have people.”