I was pleased and heartened the other day to see this news item: "Ballot description for same-sex marriage measure changed." [Link changed 30 July 2008, because the Mercury News, where I originally linked, has taken this AP article offline during the 16 hours since I posted this entry. Grr.]
Proposition 8 on the November ballot had been described as a measure to limit marriage [to being] between a man and a woman.
[But the description has now been changed to reflect the Supreme Court ruling:] The ballot title and summary now describe the initiative as a constitutional change to eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry.
[Note from Jed: I added the words "to being" in brackets about 16 hours after posting this entry, because someone pointed out in comments that the sentence as written is just wrong and confusing. Blame the AP and my inattention; I copied and pasted this sentence from the AP article without examining it closely or thinking about it.]
I suspect that this will have a huge (and positive, in my view) effect on voter perceptions and the outcome of the vote. Certainly plenty of articles and editorials I've seen have suggested that people are much less willing to do something they see as taking away an existing right than to do something they see as reinforcing an existing definition (of marriage). I don't know whether anyone's actually done any studies or polling to support that notion, but the idea sounds likely to me.
Part of me feels like this kind of recasting is a sort of a trick, and thus suspect; that is, I don't know if it passes the "would I be okay with this kind of change if it were a change in the other side's favor?" test. (In particular, I suspect there are many opponents of same-sex marriage who would argue that the "right" in question is a newly minted one, created out of whole cloth by the CA Supreme Court. I firmly believe that that argument is wrong, but I can imagine feeling similarly on the other side of some issue.)
But (a) this particular change is adhering to the literal truth, and (b) I don't really think the new description will fool anyone into thinking anything untrue or acting contrary to their beliefs; the people who are really opposed to same-sex marriage will still vote for the amendment. But some of the people who aren't sure or who don't feel strongly may not have thought of the amendment this way (as taking away an existing right); giving people new paradigms and new tools for thinking about stuff is usually a good thing in my book.
. . . At this point, Jed's half-awake thoughts wander off into incoherent mutterings about the fine line between influencing people and manipulating them, about whether logical arguments are more likely to convince people than what Rob S has been known to call "tricking people for their own good," about advertising and mass media and public-perception-vs-reality and my belief that people's rights shouldn't be subject to popular vote anyway, and so on. But writing that out would triple the length of this entry, and this was meant to be just a brief news squib, so I'll stop here.