Gay Marriage Ballots Likely to Increase Turnout in Four States

Thursday, 25 Oct 2012 02:16 PM

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Gay marriage is taking center stage on the ballot in four states and the explosive issue is expected to bring more people out to vote as groups for and against same-sex marriage pump millions of dollars into eleventh-hour lobbying efforts.

In Minnesota, a ballot initiative would ban same-sex marriage by way of a constitutional amendment, while in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the initiatives allow voters to decide whether to approve such unions.

“I do understand and accept that there are other patterns for families. However the basic prescription for marriage, I embrace it as a biblical prescription. A man and a woman,’’ Marlaa Reid of Baltimore told CNN.

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She and her husband The Rev. Frank Reid of Bethel AME Church are working in their community to defeat the initiative.

"It does not mean that we don't love our gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters," Frank Reid added. “It means that we don't take our direction from the president, whoever he or she may be. It is a reminder to us that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.’’

While Bethel AME and many other churches around the country are spearheading low-budget, word-of-mouth campaigns to get their messages out, a number of powerful conservative groups have large war chests in place to get more voters to the polls to defeat gay marriage.

The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic organization, says it has shelled out $6 million or more in the past seven years since 2005 to promote its opposition to gay marriage rights.

And the National Organization for Marriage has a $2 million matching grant challenge on its website, as well as an ad running in Minnesota that declares: “Everyone has a right to love who they chose, but nobody has a right to redefine marriage.’’

“Having a measure on the ballot increases turnout by a few points because it gets people more engaged in the issues and gets them to come out and vote,’’ Jennie Drage Bowser, who analyzes ballot measures at the National Conference of State Legislatures,’’ told Agence France Presse.

“What’s not clear is that a conservative measure could get more conservative voters out or a liberal measure could get more liberal voters out. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.’’

In Washington state, Secretary of State Sam Reed has predicted a voter turnout of 81 percent, about two percentage points higher than the norm thanks to gay marriage and other hot button issues.

“The thing that generates turnout is whether you have compelling races and ballot measures that people care about. We have that this year, big time,’’ Reed said in a statement.

“Our ballot measures seem custom-made for driving up turnout this year. We are voting on same-sex marriage, decriminalizing marijuana, authorizing charter schools, and deciding whether to require two-thirds supermajorities to pass taxes in Olympia.”

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Even in states without a gay marriage measure on the ballot, President Barack Obama's May statement supporting it means it remains an issue in the presidential race. It's a particularly hot issue in swing state North Carolina which passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage that same month.

Ballot measures have not been good to gay marriage advocates — they have lost all but one of the 28 that have been voted on since 2004.

Currently, nine states prohibit same-sex marriages in statute while thirty others ban it in their constitution. In one of the most publicized flip-flops on gay marriage, California, which began granting marriage licenses from June through November 2008, ended the practice when Proposition 8 passed, limiting unions to those between men and women.

Same sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but none of the decisions are as a result of ballot initiatives.

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