Voter courtship: Ballots in 4 states contain gay-marriage measures

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Voters in four states are being courted for engagements on Election Day.

In Maryland and Washington, voters will decide whether they are wedded to the marriage equality bills signed into law earlier this year.

In Maine, they’ll decide whether to re-legalize same-sex marriage in the state. A prior pro-gay marriage law was voided in an electoral annulment in 2009.

And in Minnesota, a state that’s had a long-standing love affair with a gay marriage ban, voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The marriage questions are four of many ballot initiatives to be decided in the general election, which also will determine the next president and vice president, control of the U.S. House and Senate and numerous state and local races.

In 19 states, including Wisconsin, there are no statewide questions, but elsewhere voters will weigh in on capping property taxes, protecting hunting rights, halting executions, legalizing medical marijuana, reforming education and health care, protecting religious freedom, tightening gun control, banning genetically modified food and legalizing or banning same-sex marriage.

Maine

The proponents of Question 1 want to reinstate gay marriage in the state. The Legislature passed a marriage equality bill three years ago, but voters, in a fierce campaign at the ballot box, repealed it in 2009.

The November ballot question, which both proponents and opponents criticized for its simplicity, asks, “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has not been vocal about his personal views on the initiative, but in May he criticized the teachers’ union for endorsing the question and soon after vetoed a teachers’ pay bill.

Recent polls suggest majority support – 57 percent or 58 percent – for the initiative.

“These are some of the strongest numbers in support of marriage that we have seen anywhere in the country,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “But supporters of the freedom to marry cannot grow complacent. There’s a lot of work still to do and we know that the attacks from opponents of marriage are coming.”

McTighe said Mainers United has talked with more than 100,000 citizens and raised at least $1 million.

Maryland

In the Old Line State, proponents want to enact a referendum that repeals the Civil Marriage Protection Act passed and signed earlier this year.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, representing the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, endorsed the repeal, stating, “While prominent politicians, deep-pocket donors and Hollywood stars try to influence Marylanders into believing that they aren’t ‘progressive’ enough, the average citizen of Maryland has enough common sense to know that marriage cannot be redefined; that a child comes from both a mother and a father; that marriage is the building block of society; and that it is not discriminatory to reserve marriage for one man and one woman.”

But polls have shown strong support for marriage equality during legislative debates on the bill, and there was a spike in support after Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in May.

“Every weekend, we canvass – walking door to door to talk to our neighbors about the importance of defending dignity and equality at the ballot box in November,” said Marylanders for Marriage Equality field organizer John Michael Watkins.

In late June it was reported that the anti-gay campaign faced a debt of more than $800,000.

Washington

Evergreen State voters face Referendum 74, a veto campaign to repeal the hard-fought marriage equality law signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, D, in February.

The ballot question asks voters to approve or reject the bill, which “allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or childplacement.”

Brian Brown of National Organization for Marriage has boasted that his side submitted twice the number of signatures needed to hold a referendum. “This,” he said, “shows the broad and deep support that traditional marriage enjoys, and sets the stage for a tremendous victory for marriage this November.”

But Washington United for Marriage recruited more than 1,000 volunteers and raised about $2 million by the end of June for its campaign. Corporate supporters of marriage equality in Washington include Starbucks, Microsoft, Google, Nike, Amazon.com and Alcoa.

Campaign manager Zach Silk said, “It’s clear that people in Washington do not want this law overturned and believe strongly that everyone should be able to marry the person they love. We are so grateful to those who understand that money in the door now enables us to build a winning campaign that protects marriage by approving Referendum 74 in November.”

Minnesota

In the North Star State, where same-sex marriage is not currently legal, Republican lawmakers and Christian right activists still want a constitutional amendment banning it. So, they are asking voters to say “yes” to the ballot question, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

Opponents of the measure include former vice president Walter Mondale, General Mills, Thomson Reuters, Target, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and U.S. Sen. Al Franken. In mid-June, Minnesota United for All Families reported that it had raised more than $4.6 million from 19,000 individual donations.

“The conversation we are having across this state is working, and more and more Minnesotans are coming to the conclusion that limiting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples is not how we do things in Minnesota,” said campaign manager Richard Carlbom. “Minnesotans know that marriage is about love, commitment and responsibility, and no one would want to be told it’s illegal to marry the person you love.”

In other states

A ballot initiative to repeal a marriage ban will not reach voters this year in Nebraska. Campaigns to repeal antigay marriage laws also failed to make ballots in California and Ohio.

Earlier this year, in North Carolina, voters approved a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and also domestic partnerships and civil unions. The vote was 61 percent to 39 percent.

Save the date

If Maryland voters approve gay marriage, same-sex couples can marry on Jan. 1, 2013.

If Washington voters approve gay marriage, same-sex couples can marry on Dec. 6.

If Maine voters approve gay marriage, same-sex couples can marry on a date still to be determined.

If Minnesota voters reject the constitutional amendment, same-sex couples still cannot marry in the state.

– L.N.

Porn at the polls

Los Angeles County voters decide on Nov. 6 whether to require condoms on the set of local porn productions.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and partners collected more than 360,000 signatures to place the question on the ballot.

If the measure passes, condoms would be required for any sex acts in locally produced adult films. The measure also would require producers to display a public health permit obtained from the county that details the condom requirement. Opponents fear that the industry will move underground, ironically lessening oversight.

City, state and federal regulations already exist for the adult film industry, which has opposed condom use with the basic argument that viewers don’t want to see them.

The industry largely is based in Los Angeles County in the San Fernando Valley. – L.N.