Initiatives, part II: States take up marriage, marijuana, euthanasia and guns

In Part II of Human Events??? national ballot initiative roundup, we examine initiatives on gay marriage, euthanasia in Massachusetts, legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon as well as an Alabama amendment to freeze state lawmakers??? wages, and reaffirmation of gun rights in Louisiana. Part I, in our Oct. 1 issue and online here, explained various tax initiatives on ballots around the nation.

Gay marriage

Four states will have gay marriage proposals on their ballots this November: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State.

The Maine Same Sex Marriage Question would allow gays to marry in the state, overturning a 2009 ban on the practice. One of the supporters of the 2012 initiative is the state chapter of Catholics for Marriage Equality (C4ME), who ???believe God desires inclusiveness for all families in the benefits conferred by civil marriage,??? according to the organization???s website.

Maryland???s vote is a referendum on the existing law, which allows gay marriage. The labor union AFL-CIO came out in January in favor of affirming the Maryland law. The Washington Post reported that a recent poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies found 51 percent of voters in favor of the law and 43 percent likely to vote against it.

The Minnesota initiative, called the Minnesota Same Sex Marriage Amendment, would alter the state constitution to include language defining marriage as between one man and one woman in Minnesota. Several Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) cases have come out of Minnesota in recent years. The Supreme Court is likely to hear at least one challenge to DOMA this term, no matter the result of the Minnesota ballot initiative. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, enacted in 1996, defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.

Washington State???s ballot initiative, Referendum 74, would allow same-sex couples to marry, convert existing domestic partnerships into marriages, and preserve the right of clergy and religious organizations to refuse to perform or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, has funded campaigns against the initiatives in Washington, Maine and Minnesota. Bruce Springsteen stars in a social media campaign in favor of gay marriage in the four states that are voting on the issue this November.

Euthanasia initiative in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Question 2, also known as the ???Death with Dignity??? Initiative, would establish a state statute by which physician-assisted death, also known as euthanasia, would be legal.

A terminally ill patient would have to thoroughly establish the desire to receive a $100 prescription of lethal drugs. The statute to be voted on Nov. 6 would require a patient diagnosed with six months or fewer to live to request euthanasia twice verbally and once in writing as well as obtain confirmation from a second doctor.

Disability rights activists and backers of No on Question 2, the main opposition to the measure, asked United States Senate Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren to discuss the measure in September. In a local radio interview, Warren, who is running against current Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, had suggested during a local radio interview that she was in favor of the measure, according to a Noon Question 2 press release.

Legalization of recreational marijuana use

Oregon, Colorado and Washington all have ballot initiatives for the legalization of recreational marijuana consumption within those states.

Some Colorado veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder formed a group in September supporting Colorado Amendment 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana consumption in the state. The state Democratic Party officially supports legalization of recreational marijuana use, according to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the initiative???s main supporting organization.

Numerous elected officials and law enforcement officers, including Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, oppose the legalization drive. Nevertheless, the Denver Post reported a majority of support in a September poll among likely voters.

Opposition to the Washington legalization drive appears slim: in August, Reuters reported that the supporting side was outpacing opposition in terms of financial contributions. The support for legalization in Oregon is considerably weaker, with the opposition slightly ahead in a poll SurveyUSA conducted in September, 41 percent to 37 percent. Meanwhile, pro-legalization donors are focusing their attention and money on the other two states with initiatives for this fall.

Nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in September urging Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. to oppose November???s recreational use legalization initiatives.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, and 14 other states.

Alabama and Louisiana: freeze lawmakers??? wages and keep guns legal

The Alabama Legislative Compensation Amendment, also known as Amendment 8, would prevent state lawmakers from increasing their financial compensation while in office.

According to language in the legislative bill that places the initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot, ???The Legislature recognizes that the public trust in the legislative body is of paramount importance.??? Lawmakers hope government transparency and accountability will resolve the issue of legislative compensation, according to the bill.

The amendment would set legislative compensation at the same rate as that of the median household income in Alabama. This would, in effect, repeal a pay increase lawmakers gave themselves five years ago, The Associated Press reported.

Louisiana, meanwhile, has an amendment on the ballot that would simply reaffirm the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The initiative for the appropriately named Amendment 2 would simply ask voters if they support an amendment that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right not to be carelessly abridged by the courts.

Neither presidential candidate has been specific about his view on gun rights in the United States. Republican vice presidential candidate and reportedly avid hunter Paul D. Ryan has warned gun owners not to trust President Barack Obama on gun laws if the incumbent is reelected.