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Wednesday, November 03, 2004 - Page updated at 01:27 A.M.
Efforts to ban gay marriage win decisively in 11 states
By Seattle Times news services
In a coast-to-coast rejection of gay marriage, voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments yesterday limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
The amendments won, often by huge margins, in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah and Oregon, the one state where gay-rights activists hoped to prevail. The bans won by a 3-to-1 margin in Kentucky and Georgia, 3-to-2 in Ohio, and 6-to-1 in Mississippi.
In all, 163 measures were on the ballot in 34 states, but the same-sex marriage ban seemed to attract the most attention.
Many of the amendments approved also specify that civil unions and same-sex marriages licensed outside those states won't be recognized, either. The Mississippi amendment refers to such unions as "void and unenforceable" in the state; the Oklahoma amendment makes the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples a misdemeanor.
The implications of the Ohio amendment are the most sweeping, with a prohibition on any legal status "that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." The amendment thus denies the legal benefits of marriage to unmarried heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples.
Proponents of the amendments said yesterday's results gave them momentum to win approval of a federal marriage amendment, which would add to the U.S. Constitution a definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
"It's a democratic tidal wave for marriage," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, a leading advocacy group pushing to amend the Constitution.
But gay-rights supporters said court challenges to the state amendments were inevitable on a variety of procedural or equal-protection grounds. And, they added, those state-court battles will set the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue.
None of the 11 states allow gay marriage now, though officials in Portland, Ore., married more than 3,000 same-sex couples last year before a judge halted the practice. Supporters of the amendments contend the measures are needed as an extra guard against state court rulings like the one in Massachusetts a year ago that legalized same-sex marriage there.
Backers of Proposition 71 said the measure was needed because the Bush administration has restricted funding for stem-cell research to about $25 million a year. The campaign became a battle of Hollywood stars after actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke Republican ranks to line up in support with late "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve and actor Michael J. Fox.
Actor and director Mel Gibson was among high-profile foes of the measure.
In Arizona, voters approved a crackdown on illegal immigrants, adopting a measure that would deter them from voting or obtaining certain government services.
The Arizona immigration initiative the first of its kind in the nation was touted by supporters as a way to curtail fraud by requiring people to produce proof of immigration status when obtaining certain government services. It would punish state workers who looked the other way.
Elsewhere, Montana became the 10th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, but Alaskans defeated a more ambitious proposal to decriminalize pot altogether. In Oregon, voters rejected a measure that would have dramatically expanded the state's existing medical marijuana program.
Oklahoma voters approved a state lottery, leaving only nine states without one.
Among the other ballot initiatives decided yesterday:
Voters in Colorado decided against a ballot measure that would have allowed the state to split its Electoral College votes in proportion to the state's popular vote. Colorado has nine electoral votes, which are distributed in the winner-takes-all manner used by all but two states (Maine and Nebraska).
Voters in Maine and South Dakota declined opportunities to lower taxes. South Dakotans defeated a bid to scrap the sales tax on groceries, while a measure to cap property taxes lost in Maine after opponents said it would force layoffs of teachers and firefighters.
Voters in Colorado, Oklahoma and Montana approved increases in tobacco taxes, with most of the new revenue earmarked for health care.
Voters in California also passed a proposition that will soften the "three strikes" rule and ensure that longer prison sentences are given only to those who commit violent crimes and serious felonies. However, the initiative will also mean greater punishment for sexual offenses against children.
In Florida , voters approved an amendment that will require minors to notify a parent or guardian before receiving an abortion. The law will include exceptions and allow for judicial waivers.
Florida voters also passed an amendment to raise the minimum wage by $1 an hour, to $6.15, and to index it to inflation annually.
Material from The Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers and Gannett News Service is included in this report.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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