This has been stuck in my brain for a while, and I've been puzzling over it. Why is the perception so different?
I think that a lot of people who voted yes on Prop 8 don't really hate gay people. They aren't really homophobic in the typical sense of the word. They just have a general mental image of what the word marriage means, and they don't really see much of a compelling reason to change it. They may well have been frightened by the Yes on 8 fearmongering, or they may not have. They may have gotten direction from their church, or not. Mostly, though, I think they just like things the way they've always been and they don't see a reason to change it.
The bit I think is missing is that they don't really understand, at either an intellectual or an emotional level, how they are affecting peoples' lives with their votes.
More often than not, the things that show up on our ballot create relatively incremental changes in peoples' lives. Vote for park bond measure and you may pay an extra $30 per year in taxes. You may get a new picnic shelter and tennis courts at the park. Vote for chickens to be able to stretch their wings and... well... you probably won't directly see much difference in your life. In fact, most things on the ballot will generally make only tiny differences in almost everyone's lives.
If you voted against gay marriage, you probably didn't see any change in your life. Likewise if you voted for it. Once you get past the hoopla and the rhetoric, most people won't see any difference in their lives. A few will, though. And for them, the difference is dramatic. It may or may not alter the course of your life, but it will certainly make a significant difference.
I think this is the big disconnect-- the people voted yes on 8 don't really see or understand what a huge difference it makes to people. For most of the voters, it's a completely academic exercise. The reason they're so puzzled by the outrage is because they feel like they've voted against a new tennis court at the park, not fucked over peoples' lives.
I wonder how many votes could have been swayed if No on 8 had played this card?
"Five years ago, my partner of 30 years got sick. (these three bad things happened, that wouldn't have happened if we were married.) Don't (dramatic language for what happened.) Vote no on Prop 8." That would have put a very human face on the issue, and maybe touched some voters.