by Peter Sprigg
November 5, 2008
The traditional, historic, and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman was a winner on Election Day, despite the simultaneous victories for Democrats in capturing the White House and expanding their majority in Congress.
The latest results as of midday on Wednesday (November 5) show that state constitutional amendments to define marriage as a one-man one-woman union had passed in Florida and Arizona and one was likely to pass in California as well.
Although many states that have already adopted such amendments did so fairly handily (especially in 2004), each of the amendments on the ballot in 2008 faced unique challenges.
Florida was the only one of the three states where adoption of the amendment required not just a simply majority of the vote, but a super-majority of 60%. The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment was the only one of the three on the ballot this year that was a “strong” or “two-sentence” amendment, meaning that included language to prevent “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions” as well as same-sex “marriage.” Florida’s amendment campaign was also probably the most under-funded of the three-yet they still managed to clear the higher hurdle set for them, winning 62.1% to 37.9%, with 99% of the vote counted (official results).
Arizona was the only state ever to see a marriage amendment defeated at the polls. In 2006, an earlier “two-sentence” amendment was defeated-ironically, not because of its impact on same-sex couples, but because of publicity about its potential impact on opposite-sex couples who sometimes enter into “domestic partnerships” to avoid losing Social Security benefits to a “marriage penalty.” This year Proposition 102, a revised, “one-sentence” amendment focused only on the definition of civil marriage, was successful by a margin of 56.5% to 43.5%, with 99.1% of the vote in (see official results). Turning the 2006 defeat into a 2008 victory is a great accomplishment for pro-family forces in Arizona.
The most closely-watched and heavily-funded (on both sides) campaign was the one in California. That state’s Supreme Court issued a 4-3 ruling on May 15 of this year that overturned two state laws defining marriage, thus opening the door for same-sex couples to begin receiving marriage licenses a month later. The idea that the amendment would “take away rights” that same-sex couples were already enjoying undoubtedly made passage harder. This was reinforced by the biased language which California Attorney General (and former Governor) Jerry Brown ordered on the ballot, declaring that the amendment primarily “eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry,” rather than more neutrally stating that it “defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Despite this finger on the scale, and a vicious campaign against the amendment that included anti-religious ads, vandalism, and even violence, California’s Proposition 8 appears to have passed, 52.2% to 47.8% with 96.4% of precincts reporting (official results). As I was writing this piece, it was reported on TV that the Associated Press had declared victory for Proposition 8. Congratulations to the people of California for successfully exercising the ultimate check against judicial tyranny in our political system.
The only disappointment on the marriage front was in Connecticut, whose Supreme Court followed the lead of California’s (also by a one-vote margin) on October 10 by fabricating a constitutional “right” to same-sex “marriage.” Connecticut does not have an initiative process whereby the people can place constitutional amendments on the ballot by petition. However, they did have the opportunity yesterday to call for a constitutional convention. Pro-marriage forces hoped that a convention might adopt an initiative process, which in turn could be used to place marriage on the ballot. Unfortunately, this three-step process may not have been understood by the voters, who rejected the idea of a constitutional convention by 59% to 41% (results here).
In addition to the three marriage amendments, however, there was one other victory yesterday for traditional family structures. Arkansas adopted a law (Proposed Initiative Act No. 1) by 56.8% to 43.2% (see here) which prohibits adoption or foster care by persons who are cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of marriage. While this would effectively bar homosexual couples from adopting, it also applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex couples. (Single people would still be allowed to adopt, without regard to sexual orientation). Thus, while this bill is being described as “anti-gay-adoption,” it would be more accurately described as “anti-cohabitation.”
Whatever “mandate” President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress may claim from yesterday’s results, it is clearly not a mandate (even in Florida and California, which Obama carried) to change the definition of marriage or the family.