Fight to the finish

Marriage | Four states are engaged in heated ballot battles over the definition of marriage
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 11/01/12, 01:57 pm

WASHINGTON—Last month, a Baltimore Sun poll showed Maryland’s Question 6 would pass by a 49 percent to 39 percent margin, affirming a new state law that redefined marriage to include same-sex couples. But new polling shows a dead heat as African-American voters are leading a significant shift toward traditional marriage in a state President Barack Obama expects to carry by a double-digit margin. 

Maryland is one of four states where the battle over marriage is reaching a fevered pitch with five days remaining before Election Day. Maryland, Maine, and Washington state will vote on measures to legalize same-sex “marriage,” while Minnesota is voting to amend its state constitution to permanently ban it. 

Traditional marriage supporters are relying mostly on grassroots help and individual donations to fuel their efforts. Same-sex “marriage” advocates are getting individual donations, too, but they come with significantly more money and star power: Bill and Melinda Gates donated $500,000 to the cause in Washington, while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave $2.5 million. This week, actor Brad Pitt pledged to donate $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based group promoting gay “marriage” that has spent a combined $5 million on the four ballot initiatives.

In Maryland, the Maryland Marriage Alliance has fought back with its own big names, including ads featuring Matt Birk, a center with the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, and Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Gay and lesbian couples already have rights under Maryland law,” King said. “It is possible to be tolerant of gay and lesbian rights without redefining marriage, God’s holy union.” 

The Maryland Marriage Alliance has also encouraged pastors to preach on the importance of traditional marriage in their churches—a strategy that seems to be paying off. Even staunch Obama supporters are showing a willingness to break with the president on the marriage issue.

In Minnesota, the National Organization for Marriage launched a boycott against General Mills after the food giant came out in opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. The amendment appears to have a slight edge in polling, but support appears to be just below the required majority for adopting amendments. State law requires approval of at least 50 percent of the ballots cast, and any unmarked ballots count as a vote against the measure. 

In Washington state, groups pushing same-sex unions have outspent traditional marriage advocates by more than 6-to-1, but their long-held polling leads have disappeared. Referendum 74 support is down to 49 percent, showing a four-point lead, which is within the margin of error, in a recent statewide poll.

In Maine, traditional marriage advocates may face their most uphill battle. The state in 2009 rejected (53 percent to 47 percent) a state law legalizing same-sex “marriage,” but polls hint the outcome could flip this year. Matt Hutson, campaign director for Protect Marriage Maine, the group leading efforts against Question 1, said the organization’s internal polling shows a dead heat. 

The history of same-sex “marriage” polling suggests traditional marriage does better on Election Day than in pre-election surveys. Traditional marriage is 32-0 when put before voters, even in states where previous surveys had indicated public support for redefining marriage.

Barely mentioned

The fierce state battles represent a stark difference to the presidential campaign, where little has been mentioned about same-sex “marriage” or President Barack Obama’s “evolving” ideas on the issue. Obama endorsed same-sex “marriage” last May, just days after Vice President Joe Biden abruptly announced his support.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has consistently opposed same-sex “marriage” and backs a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but he has not made the issues a central part of his campaign. Part of the reason may be because he also backs civil partnerships, which are controversial among conservatives. 

Last week the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR)—a group of gay Republicans pushing same-sex issues in the party—gave its “qualified” endorsement to Gov. Romney after a private meeting.

“We are confident that there will be no retreat from the significant gains we’ve made in recent years, most important on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the group wrote on its website. “Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, and Paul Ryan is not Michele Bachmann. Otherwise, our decision would have been different.” 

Multiple news sources in the gay community also reported the endorsement was prompted by Romney privately offering support for the Employee Non Discrimination Act, a bill that would prevent employers from considering a person’s sexual orientation in its hiring practices. LCR executive director R. Clarke Cooper denied those rumors. —J.C.D.

Listen to a report on state ballot initiatives concerning the definition of marriage on WORLD’s radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD Radio’s managing editor. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012 and eventually becoming WORLD’s Washington Bureau chief. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

Read more from this writer