Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gay rights measures on the ballot in three states

Gay rights measures on the ballot in three states - Yahoo! News
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Nearly a year after California voters overturned same-sex marriage, voters in three other states will weigh in this fall on whether to reverse gay rights initiatives ranging from anti-discrimination measures to marriage benefits.

In Maine, voters will decide whether or not to uphold the state's legalization of same-sex marriage. In Washington state, a so-called "everything but marriage" law that expands the state's current domestic partnership law will be on the ballot. And in Kalamazoo, Mich., voters will decide on an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

"In off-year elections, ballot measures gain much more attention, regardless of the topic," said University of Washington political science professor Matt Barreto. But California's battle over Proposition 8 is "certainly an important backdrop."

Under a California Supreme Court decision, California had allowed same-sex marriages for five months before 52 percent of voters reversed the ruling in the contentious $83 million Prop. 8 battle last November. The state's Supreme Court upheld the vote earlier this year.

Gay rights supporters see one silver lining in the loss in California.

"It has sparked a greater public conversation about gay people," said Dan Hawes, a field director with the Washington, D.C.-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "While we have lost in previous ballot measures, because the margin of loss continues to shrink, it does indicate that there is growing acceptance."

Barreto said that the money involved in this year's ballot measures won't come close to Prop. 8 — California is a much more expensive market to run TV ads in, and the Prop. 8 ads came during a high profile presidential election year, driving the cost astronomically higher, he said.

In Maine, opponents of gay marriage had raised more than $343,000 through the end of the last quarterly reporting period in July, with $160,000 from the National Organization for Marriage, one of the groups that backed Prop. 8. Supporters of gay marriage raised $143,290 in that same period.

In addition to the loss in California, gay-rights supporters suffered setbacks elsewhere last fall, with amendments banning gay marriage being approved in Arizona and Florida. Arkansas voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

"When the people have voted, they have voted to defend marriage," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy for Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.....

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