A Big Test for Gay Marriage

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    Oct 09, 2012 5:04 AM GMT
    A Big Test for Gay Marriage

    By FRANK BRUNI
    October 8, 2012

    http://bruni.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/08/a-big-test-for-gay-marriage

    For supporters of same-sex marriage—and for opponents, too—this Election Day is a pivotal one, an opportunity for voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington to make history and do something that voters across America have never done before.

    ...Although six states, along with the District of Columbia, now permit gay and lesbian couples to marry, none reached that point via a popular referendum. In New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and D.C., lawmakers made it happen, through legislation. In Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, the states’ highest courts did.

    Citizens themselves have weighed in on same-sex marriage in more than 30 states, and have ultimately rejected it in all of them. They did so most recently in North Carolina, where an amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriage was passed earlier this year by a margin of 61 to 39.

    But that was the South. And that was before President Obama spoke out for same-sex marriage. Since then the chorus of support has grown louder, with the N.A.A.C.P., for example, formally joining in. Funding for marriage-equality campaigns has grown stronger. And polls show a trend in the direction of greater approval for same-sex marriage, which a very slight majority of Americans, in some surveys, seem to endorse.

    “There’s tremendous momentum,” said Brian Ellner, a leading marriage-equality advocate and co-founder of a new social media campaign, The Four 2012, to raise resources for, and awareness of, the state referendums. “Everything is aligned for us to win this year.”

    Same-sex marriage referendums are on the ballot this Election Day in four states in all—the three I previously mentioned, plus Minnesota—and it’s not only the timing that’s different and quite possibly advantageous. The venues are significant, too.

    Maryland, Washington, Maine and Minnesota are all bluish or purple states more socially progressive than North Carolina, though I’m painting with a broad brush, and none of those states are as blue as, say, Massachusetts.

    All are deciding the issue on the same day as a presidential election, which means that turnout is likely to be bigger and more representative of the voter population than on a day when people are showing up primarily for such referendums. There is some belief that such occasions bring out opponents of same-sex marriage in greater numbers than advocates.

    So same-sex marriage probably has a better chance of prevailing by a voter referendum than ever before, though its chances aren’t equivalent in all the states, and in Minnesota, in fact, what voters are actually deciding is not whether to permit gays and lesbians to marry but whether to adopt an amendment to the state constitution that would ban that, a la North Carolina. If that amendment fails, Minnesota won’t join the ranks of states with same-sex marriage, whereas Maine, Maryland and Washington would indeed do so if their citizens vote in favor of marriage, which is what’s on the ballots there.

    Below is some more information about, and analysis of, the situation and dynamics in each of those three states.

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    Oct 09, 2012 5:05 AM GMT
    Maine: Many advocates believe Maine is the most likely place for success.

    It went through a sort of dress rehearsal for this in 2009, when voters rejected same-sex marriage by a 53-to-47 margin. That vote was in response to same-sex legislation that had been passed and signed and was being put before voters for a final decision. The vote did not occur during a presidential election, and advocates have since been able to reexamine their approach, fine-tune their arguments and plot their strategy. National observers say the Maine effort is especially well organized.

    “We’ve had 2 ½ years to go door-to-door and target the undecided,” said Matt McTighe, the manager of the Mainers United for Marriage campaign. During that period, he said, thousands of volunteers have managed to have about 200,000 one-on-one conversations with people in a state whose total population is just 1.3 million or so.

    In one recent poll of likely voters in Maine, 57 percent said they supported the referendum, 36 percent said they didn’t and 7 percent were undecided. But in many states, polls on this issue have historically painted a more supportive picture than the one that ultimately emerged from voting booths. Suffice it to say that advocates are still plenty nervous about Maine.

    For one thing, television commercials advocating same-sex marriage have been running since the Olympics, while anti-marriage commercials appeared for the first time this week, an indication that opponents were only now revving up. One commercial maintained that if gay marriage were enacted, anyone who dared to question it might be “fired, sued, fined and punished.” Another asserted that gay and lesbian couples could enjoy many of the most important protections of marriage through other arrangements. “Every Mainer has a right to love whom they choose,” the commercial says, “but nobody has a right to redefine marriage.”

    Interesting to note: neither of the state’s two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who are both social moderates in favor of abortion rights, has publicly supported (or, for that matter, opposed) the referendum. Collins was an ardent proponent for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but has taken a pass on this fight. Advocates continue to make quiet appeals to Snowe, who is retiring and needn’t fear any particular political fallout. But it’s unclear that they’ll have any success.

    In the state’s heated three-way Senate campaign, the independent candidate, Angus King, a former governor, and the Democratic candidate, Cynthia Dill, have come out in favor of the referendum. The Republican candidate, Charlie Summers, has not.

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    Oct 09, 2012 5:05 AM GMT
    Maryland: In February, both chambers of the state legislature narrowly passed a same-sex marriage law, which Martin O’Malley, the state’s Democratic governor, signed on March 1st. Opponents then gathered enough signatures to force the upcoming referendum, which will allow voters to accept or reject the new law, not yet implemented.

    O’Malley had campaigned vigorously for it, and has continued to campaign vigorously for the referendum. That in itself is fascinating. Like Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, he is believed to have national ambitions and an eye on 2016. That both he and Cuomo have aligned themselves so unreservedly with same-sex marriage suggests their calculation that within a few years, the issue won’t be nearly as divisive as it is now, and will certainly be an out-and-out winner among Democrats.

    Polls in Maryland show more respondents indicating support for same-sex marriage than opposition, but that advantage doesn’t go back as far as it does in Maine, nor has it been as consistent.

    Those polls have shown a particular uptick of support among African Americans, which is especially important and potentially consequential. In several states, blacks have been seemingly less supportive of same-sex marriage than whites have, and Maryland’s percentage of black residents, 29.4, is much higher than the national average of 12.6.

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    Oct 09, 2012 5:05 AM GMT
    Washington: This would be the first state to adopt same-sex marriage in the West, where there’s still enormous frustration with California voters’ rejection of it on Election Day four years ago.

    More decisively than in Maryland, state lawmakers here voted near the start of this year for same-sex marriage, and Christine Gregoire, the Democratic governor, signed the bill into law on February 13th. Opponents are now challenging that law through the referendum on Nov. 6th.

    Although recent polls suggest that a clear majority of Washington residents are poised to allow the law to stand, one dynamic that could be influential and is difficult to assess is that just three years ago, voters in a statewide referendum approved state benefits for gay and lesbian couples who register as domestic partners. Does that mean that they have been nudged farther down the path toward support for same-sex marriage than voters elsewhere, or does it mean that they’re more susceptible to the argument—used, for example, in one of the Maine ads mentioned earlier—that marriage isn’t necessary: icing on a cake that’s sufficiently fluffy and nourishing as is?

    Zach Silk, the campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said there are other factors working in the favor of a yes vote for same-sex marriage.

    “We’ve had lots of Republican support,” Silk noted. “That’s one of our unique assets. That—and general corporate support.”

    Indeed, as I noted in a post earlier this year, some of the most prominent Seattle-area corporations, including Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, have made their support for same-sex marriage clear. Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon, and his wife donated $2.5 million to the Washington same-sex marriage effort, which has raised more than $8.5 million, the vast majority from Washington sources, Silk said.

    On the flip side, the Roman Catholic leaders in Washington have loudly and repeatedly stated their opposition, making clear to Catholic parishioners where they stand. That has not been the case, for example, in Maine this time around.

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    Oct 09, 2012 5:06 AM GMT
    A final note on polls. I can’t stress enough how unreliable they’ve been when it comes to how voters in a given state will cast their ballots on same-sex marriage. Neither California in 2008 nor North Carolina this year was supposed to turn out so badly, at least if polls taken just beforehand were to be trusted.

    So advocates don’t, in fact, trust them, at least not completely. There’s a theory that some people who plan to vote against same-sex marriage fear that their position makes them seem intolerant, and thus tell pollsters that they hold the opposite position or that they’re undecided.

    So advocates are wary of public opinion surveys, which suggest Maine, Washington and Maryland could all legalize same-sex marriage next month. They also know that their opponents have only begun to fight.
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    Oct 09, 2012 5:23 AM GMT
    It bothers me that there would even be a test about two people loving each other.
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    Oct 09, 2012 11:33 AM GMT
    WTF. All this typing by a hidden/deleted member...

    does he believe his own posting icon_question.gif


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    Oct 09, 2012 11:41 AM GMT
    Its an article in the NYT today...
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Oct 09, 2012 6:54 PM GMT
    PHLmuscle8 saidWTF. All this typing by a hidden/deleted member...

    does he believe his own posting icon_question.gif




    He doesn't want us to know he's gay.icon_rolleyes.gif
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Oct 09, 2012 7:03 PM GMT
    In many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Oct 09, 2012 7:20 PM GMT
    Medjai saidIn many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.


    We're doomed.icon_sad.gif
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Oct 09, 2012 7:21 PM GMT
    HottJoe said
    Medjai saidIn many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.


    We're doomed.icon_sad.gif


    He's probably going to win. I'm actually disgusted with Americans as a whole for wanting him in.
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Oct 09, 2012 7:30 PM GMT
    Medjai said
    HottJoe said
    Medjai saidIn many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.


    We're doomed.icon_sad.gif


    He's probably going to win. I'm actually disgusted with Americans as a whole for wanting him in.


    I know what you mean. I'm starting to get the sinking feeling I had when Bush won.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 09, 2012 7:43 PM GMT
    HottJoe said
    Medjai said
    HottJoe said
    Medjai saidIn many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.


    We're doomed.icon_sad.gif


    He's probably going to win. I'm actually disgusted with Americans as a whole for wanting him in.


    I know what you mean. I'm starting to get the sinking feeling I had when Bush won.
    +infinity

    However, Romney is most definitely a tyrant, which means once people figure it out, he won't be with us much longer.
  • Medjai

    Posts: 2671

    Oct 09, 2012 7:49 PM GMT
    paulflexes said
    HottJoe said
    Medjai said
    HottJoe said
    Medjai saidIn many ways, a vote for Romney is looking more and more like a vote against progress.


    We're doomed.icon_sad.gif


    He's probably going to win. I'm actually disgusted with Americans as a whole for wanting him in.


    I know what you mean. I'm starting to get the sinking feeling I had when Bush won.
    +infinity

    However, Romney is most definitely a tyrant, which means once people figure it out, he won't be with us much longer.


    Think the American people have one solid assassination left in them?