Gay-marriage backers end losing streak, look ahead

For years, foes of same-sex marriage had a potent talking point: They'd won every time the issue went to a popular vote. That winning streak has now been shattered in a multi-state electoral sweep by gay marriage supporters — a historic tipping point likely to influence other states and possibly even the Supreme Court.
Associated Press
Nov 9, 2012

"It's an astounding day," said Kevin Cathcart of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, recalling that in 2004 alone the gay-marriage movement went 0-13 in statewide elections and was 0-32 overall since 1998.

In Tuesday's voting, however, Maine and Maryland became the first states ever to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Washington state seemed poised to follow suit, although slow ballot-counting there continued Wednesday. And in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposal to place a ban on gay-marriage in the state constitution, a step taken in past elections in 30 other states.

"The anti-gay opposition kept moving the goal posts and had as their last talking point that we could not win a popular vote," said Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. "Last night, voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and, all signs suggest, Washington proved them wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong."

Heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states and the District of Columbia, in each case due to legislation or court orders rather than popular vote.

Activists said Tuesday's results will likely spur pushes for same-sex marriage in states that already have established civil unions for gay couples — including Illinois, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Delaware.

Democratic takeovers of both legislative chambers in Colorado and Minnesota may also prompt moves there to extend legal recognition to same-sex couples. In each state, the Democratic governors, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, would support such efforts.

In Minnesota, state Sen. Scott Dibble, who is openly gay, is among several Democratic lawmakers uncertain if an immediate push for gay marriage makes political sense. But Dibble, who is 47, said of himself and his partner: "We'll be married in Minnesota in our lifetime."

Whatever happens at the statehouse level, the U.S. Supreme Court is also likely to become a pivotal battleground in the next phase of the gay-marriage debate.

The justices are expected to confront same-sex marriage in some form during the current term.

Several pending cases challenge a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits available to heterosexual couples. A separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California's Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by courts in the nation's largest state.

"The justices now know America is with us. America is ready," said Brian Ellner, co-founder of a social-media initiative called TheFour.com that was active in the gay-marriage campaigns. He and other activists noted that nationwide polls prior to the election were showing, for the first time, that a majority of Americans now backed gay marriage.

James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, termed the referendum results "an indisputable watershed moment" that almost certainly would influence the Supreme Court.

"When making decisions on civil rights issues, the court follows the country, rather than leading," he said. "They don't make decisions in a complete public-opinion vacuum."

He noted that if the high court struck down Prop 8, that would immediately add California — with its 37 million residents — to the list of states allowing same-sex marriage.

Had the four measures lost, said Evan Wolfson, justices might have been reluctant to wade in on the side of gay marriage. Now, he said, they could do so "knowing that their support will stand the test of time and, indeed, be true to where the American people already are."

The chairman of the leading advocacy group opposing same-sex marriage, John Eastman of the National Organization for Marriage, said it was possible that the referendum results might nudge the high court toward a ruling favoring gay marriage. But Eastman said it also was possible the justices would decide to let the political process play out a bit longer at the state level before intervening.

The National Organization for Marriage's president, Brian Brown, expressed disappointment at the unprecedented losses for gay marriage opponents, who were outspent by at least 3-to-1 in the four referendum states — all of them won easily by President Barack Obama..

The results "reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states," Brown said. "Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case."

For the gay-rights movement, the celebration extended far beyond the groundbreaking ballot measures.

In Wisconsin, veteran congresswoman Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. At least five other openly gay Democrats were elected to House seats, while Kyrsten Sinema — vying to be the first openly bisexual member of Congress — was locked in a too-close-to-call race in Arizona.

In Iowa, gay-marriage opponents failed on two counts. They lost a bid to oust one of the state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage in 2009, and they were unable to take control of the state Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Michael Gronstal has blocked a proposed amendment to overturn that ruling.

More broadly, gay-rights leaders celebrated the re-election of Obama, who had frustrated them early in his term with his sometimes cautious stances. Over the past two years, he's become a hero of the movement — playing a key role last year in enabling gays to serve openly in the military and this year becoming the first sitting president to endorse same sex-marriage.

Among the next agenda items at the federal level is the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would protect gays and transgender people from workplace discrimination.

The gay-rights momentum even extended overseas. Spain's top court upheld the legality of the country's gay marriage law on Tuesday, and French President Francois Hollande's Cabinet was pushing ahead Wednesday with a controversial bill that could see gay marriage legalized early next year.

 

Comments

itypedformiles

HOORAY!

SamAdams

This is appalling to me, but not for the reasons you might think. Instead, I consider it a grievous breach of the separation of church and state. It's not government's purview to determine whether or not a church (or synagogue or temple) is bestowing its sacraments "correctly." If churches determine within their own interpretations of Scripture that gay marriage is fine, the government should legally recognize it. If churches determine gay marriage is immoral, then there should be no repercussions for their stance EVER.

We should have known, though, that this kind of nonsense was coming. Should government discriminate? Of course not. Any marriage should glean the benefits of automatic inheritance, medical decision-making, child custody and the like. But with the government interference in religion via Obamacare, and with gay marriage laws springing up in states across the country, you can kiss any notion of REAL religious freedom good-bye!

Yes, I'm fully aware that no church will be mandated under these laws to recognize gay marriage. But then who would have dreamed Catholic churches and institutions would ever be prohibited from practicing (or REFUSING to practice something) under THEIR beliefs, hmm?

Smaller government, less interference. If this issue doesn't touch you and you don't care, that's fine; but rest assured, precedents are being set, and the NEXT issue could very well be the one that curtails YOUR freedom and YOUR conscience!

The Bizness

SamAdams,

I may be mistaken, but as far as I know many churches do not marry homosexuals...the fight is for getting the same right in the eyes of the state with regards to taxes and benefits and that is pretty much it. The rest is completely up to the churches.

Wald

You're right, Biz. Sam is trying to sling more of his anti-Obama propaganda.

deertracker

I think Sam is a she!

SamAdams

You're right. Kind of. And I frankly AGREE with the demands for legal recognition! (Government shouldn't condone OR frown upon personal relationships or religious partnerships, period.) But this is a foot-in-the-door issue. Already we're seeing problems with

• Schools having to avoid words like "mother" or "father"
• Religious-funded and oriented daycare centers and the like being sued for discrimination because they won't take the children of gay couples (married or otherwise)
• Prohibitions on religious free speech (such as daring to suggest that homosexuality might not be moral)

The issue here SOUNDS like it's "just" government recognition, but it isn't. Again, it's not going to force churches to do or not do anything per se, but the notion is already infringing on rights like free speech and freedom of religion. Once government gives homosexuality some "special" minority classification (and in some places it already has), even more freedoms will be prohibited. How am I so sure? History, including that of recent years.

Justme...

Interesting points Sam. I have to say, a year ago I would have said you were crazy - the gov't isn't going to tell churches how to perform their sacraments. But now that they're forcing them to provide birth control for free, what's next? That said, if the people want gay marriage to be legal in the eyes of the law, so be it. Just don't tell churches what to recognize.

SamAdams

It's okay, Justme. Frankly, I would've thought I was crazy, too, if I knew I'd be saying things like that! Not in America, I would've told myself. No, not HERE!

Congratulations, uninformed voters. It CAN happen here. You're about to see an avalanche of evidence proving my point.

meowmix

Seems to me religions want to have their cake and eat it too. Want the tax-exempt status it maintains but also wants to have the choice to ignore governmental law. I say give all denominations the right to do as they please--once their coffers are paying tax.

Justme...

That's not even logical. Paying taxes depends on whether you are for-profit, not your beliefs. You can't be saying you Churches should be forced to recognize gay marriage? Look, personally, I'm ok with it from a legal stand point. But you can't force a religion to be ok with it.

queenjhb

Gay people wouldnt want to be married in a church that doesnt accept them as a couple. Marriage is a commitment,a choice , a celebration of a union of love and devotion. Churches should not be forced onto performing a marriage, against the beliefs of the mandates in there religion. Gay couples should be married and be part of a religous group that accepts them .

9299

Jeez . . . and I thought religious folks were supposed to be tolerant. I can remember the time when interracial marriages were going to bring down America and our marriage institutions. . . we're still here and everyone is fine. I would think the right wing zealots should spend more time trying to keep "man and woman" married as our divorce rate is in the 50% range and that sure affects children a whole bunch more than worrying about what to call two dads or two moms. Most young people are tolerant and okay with it . . . it's the over-the-top adults who can't deal.

KURTje

"Do you like green eggs & ham?" "I do not like them Sam I am."

Randy_Marsh

As i do not agree with a religious tenant being used for tax purposes. The government set the laws and now they are being corrected as to set things right within the gay community according to taxes. Good for them. As to them infringing on the religious community, The government cannot and should not interfere with the doctrine of religions according to their interpretations of the tax rules. In other words, Gov stay out of my church and my church will stay out of your tax laws.