Voters face choice on marriage issue

With less than three weeks until the election, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) groups are working feverishly to ensure the defeat of ballot initiatives that would bar same-sex marriage in 11 states.

Conservatives are hoping that voters in the 11 states — Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah — will follow the lead of voters in Louisiana and Missouri, both of which passed such measures earlier in the year.

Last week, GLBT activists’ spirits were buoyed after a Louisiana state judge threw out the amendment to that state’s constitution, which voters passed in a Sept. 18 primary. The amendment stated that marriage “shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” The amendment also barred civil unions by saying that any legal status identical “to that of marriage … shall not be valid or recognized.” District Judge William Morvant said that the amendment was flawed because of this dual ban.

In an Oct. 5 statement, Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, praised the Louisiana decision and noted that eight of the 11 ballot initiatives deny all forms of non-married partnerships, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. “All across the country, the forces of religious and political intolerance are trying to do the same thing they did in Louisiana — mislead voters about what’s at stake,” Foreman said.

In Ohio, a broad coalition has come together to oppose Issue 1, which contains wording similar to that in Louisiana.

“Issue 1 will eliminate health care, abolish property rights, slash maternity leave, drive away jobs and cost taxpayers even more for Ohio’s unmarried couples — same or opposite sex,” Ohioans Protecting the Constitution states on its website. “Issue 1 will turn adoption, property, probate/estate, and insurance law upside down.”

Concern over the vast scope of Issue 1 has led to groups such as the Ohio Federation of Teachers, AARP and National Organization for Women joining ranks with many local and state officials in opposing it.

On Oct. 6, the Michigan AFL-CIO came out against that state’s Proposal 2, saying that it would undermine the bargaining rights of workers, especially public employees. “Public employees have seen a steady erosion of bargaining rights, items that can no longer be on the bargaining table,” the federation said, “and this proposal adds to the list.”

The author can be reached at jbarnett@pww.org.