Meg Whitman says she would defend Proposition 8

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On Friday afternoon, the former eBay CEO and Republican candidate for governor said that she would defend Proposition 8 if elected governor.  The 2008 ballot initiative amended California’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage in the state, declaring that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Proposition 8 prompted a heated and expensive political battle, with over $80 million spent in total by supporters and opponents of the initiative, as well as a flurry of celebrity activism.  But with 52% of the vote, Prop 8 met California’s simple majority requirement for ballot initiatives and became law, facing an inevitable legal battle in the court system. While it prevailed in the California Supreme Court, Prop 8 was overturned earlier this month by a Federal District Court.

Now Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has made her clearest stand yet on the issue of gay marriage in the State of California, telling the Sacramento Bee that she would fight to keep Proposition 8 on the books by appealing the recent court ruling that overturned it:

“The issue right now is, as I understand is ‘Will Proposition 8 have the appropriate support to actually make an appeal to the circuit court of appeals?’ ” Whitman said. “And I think the governor, the attorney general today has to defend the constitution and has to enable the judicial process to go along and has to enable an appeal to go through. So if I was governor, I would give that ruling standing to be able to appeal to the circuit court.”

While getting in touch with her party’s values, Whitman may also just be playing smart politics.

Though Prop 8 did not pass by a landslide, it did win by a relatively comfortable margin in an extremely polarized state, with 600,000 more YES votes than NO votes, and a nearly 5% lead- even in a year with high voter turnout among Democrats and young people, and with less funding from Prop 8 supporters.

But, Meg Whitman’s decision to support Prop 8 may hurt her in November’s election. Voters are most concerned about jobs and the economy, not social issues, and conservatives will already be turning out in 2010 to support candidates who they believe will represent fiscal restraint and spur job creation.

Taking such a clear stand on a social issue of great importance to many Democrats- especially in California- might just energize Whitman’s opponents to come out and vote against her on election day.