Marriage Protections Could Decide Presidential Election

As this year’s election campaign enters its final stretch, the definition of marriage is becoming a central issue in some of the most hotly contested states in the country. And it’s not just the clash on the issue between the two presidential candidates.

Depending on the outcome of some legal challenges, voters in 12 states–including the key presidential battlegrounds of Oregon, Michigan, and Ohio–will have an opportunity to vote for state constitutional amendments forbidding same-sex marriage.

These initiatives–all of which are expected to pass if voted on–will be on the same ballot as two presidential candidates who have strikingly different positions on the issue. President Bush opposes same-sex marriage, while Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) has consistently opposed any practical steps to prevent it. Many observers believe the initiatives will help Bush by increasing conservative turnout.

In Oregon, where a September Riley Research poll of 507 likely voters gave Bush a narrow 46%-to-45% edge over Kerry, the marriage initiative polls at 61% for and 34% against. In theory, voters who favor the initiative will be more likely to mail in their ballots (all voting in Oregon is done by mail) and vote for Bush as well.

Michigan Pollster Stephen Mitchell said he expects the marriage amendment to produce a Bush swing in his state and other states as well, perhaps as big as three percentage points.

“I think that in a very close election, the Michigan constitutional amendment could impact the final outcome,” Mitchell told HUMAN EVENTS. “Christians are going to be able to organize aggressive voter registration drives to register Christians who may not like partisan politics, but are very concerned about an issue like gay marriage. And if these people go to the polls to vote on the gay marriage initiative, they will probably vote for President, and if they do they’ll vote for George W. Bush.”

Conservatives in Michigan (which Al Gore won by five points in 2000) won a victory this month when the state’s court of appeals ordered the issue on the ballot. The ruling overturned the state’s Board of Canvassers, which had deadlocked along party lines, 2-2, effectively rejecting the ballot measure. The case may still end up in the state supreme court, which would only increase the attention it gets. Liberals have complained that the initiative would also ban state recognition of homosexual civil unions.

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (R.), a vocal supporter of a marriage amendment, told HUMAN EVENTS that he believes the measure will probably make the ballot in his state. As of September 9, legal challenges to signatures in ten counties appeared to have put the initiative about 47,000 signatures short of the required 322,899. But under Ohio law, supporters will have ten days to gather more signatures once the official count is released. The group heading the effort, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, claims to have already obtained 100,000 “just-in-case” signatures that they can submit this week to make up the shortfall.

“This citizen group is well organized and well motivated,” said Blackwell. “I’ve been impressed with the band of lawyers that they have gotten to volunteer their time across the state.”

In addition to Oregon, Ohio and Michigan, marriage protection amendments will appear on ballots in Mississippi, Kentucky, North Dakota, Georgia, Montana, Utah and Louisiana. In Arkansas and Oklahoma the ballot status of initiatives is being challenged in the state supreme court.

Marriage Initiatives
Activists in these states have qualified, or are in the process of qualifying, marriage initiatives for their state ballots this fall
Arkanas Ballot status under court challenge
Georgia On ballot
Kentucky On ballot
Michigan Ballot status under court challenge
Mississippi On ballot
Ohio Ballot status under court challenge
Oklahoma Ballot status under court challenge
Oregon On ballot
Louisiana On ballot for September 18
Montana On ballot
North Dakota On ballot
Utah On ballot