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Eleven states approve bans on gay marriage

Activists consider suits despite lopsided results

Associated Press

November 3, 2004

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In a resounding, 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.

"This issue does not deeply divide America," said conservative activist Gary Bauer. "The country overwhelmingly rejects same-sex marriage, and our hope is that both politicians and activist judges will read these results and take them to heart."

The Ohio measure, considered the broadest of the 11 because it barred any legal status that "intends to approximate marriage," gathered equal support from men and women, blacks and whites.

In Georgia, Ohio and Mississippi, gay-rights activists were considering court challenges of the newly approved amendments. But supporters of the bans were jubilant.

"I've said all along that this crossed party lines, color lines and socioeconomic lines," said Sadie Fields of the Georgia Christian Coalition. "The people in this state realized that we're talking about the future of our country here."

Conservatives had expected that the amendments would prevail in at least 10 of the states, thus demonstrating widespread disapproval of court rulings in favor of gay couples. National and local gay-rights groups campaigned vigorously in Oregon, where polls had showed a close race, but they failed to prevent a sweep.

"That certainly is disappointing news that many Kentucky voters would think it's appropriate to write discrimination into our Constitution," said Beth Wilson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. "People get harmed when their relationships are not respected, and this means that relationships won't be respected."

None of the 11 states allow gay marriage, though officials in Portland, Ore., married more than 3,000 same-sex couples last year before a judge halted the ceremonies. Supporters of the amendments argue that the measures are needed as an extra protection against state court rulings like the one issued in Massachusetts a year ago legalizing same-sex marriage.

Regardless of yesterday's results, the gay marriage debate will rage on. Conservatives say they will continue to press for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, on the premise that even toughly worded bans in state constitutions could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gay-rights activists, meanwhile, will continue pressing marriage-rights lawsuits in states such as Oregon, California and New Jersey, where they believe the high courts might eventually rule in their favor.

States roundup

Arizona

Measure passed which would require proof of citizenship to register to vote and proof of immigration status to obtain certain government services.

California

Sixteen ballot issues included two expensive casino gambling initiatives, both rejected, and one that would roll back "three strikes" sentencing law. Voters agreed to let the state sell $3 billion in bonds to pay for stem cell research.

Colorado

Voters rejected measure to scrap winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes and divide them based on popular vote.

Florida

Voters approved a $1-an-hour increase in the state minimum wage and approved an initiative aimed at requiring parental notice if minors seek abortions. Also, voters agreed to bar licensing of physicians who commit three or more incidents of medical malpractice.

Louisiana

Amendment passed to establish constitutional right to hunt and fish.

Montana

Initiative failed to overturn six-year-old voter-approved ban on using cyanide in mining operations. In others, voters banned gay marriage, legalized medical marijuana.

Nebraska

A plan to legalize two casinos was rejected.

Ohio

Voters bolstered nation's toughest law banning gay marriage with even broader constitutional amendment against civil unions, despite fears from businesses that it would make it more difficult to hire and retain top talent.

Oklahoma

Voters approved constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and measure giving state some authority over Indian casinos - and a share of profits.

South Carolina

Voters agreed to let state end requirement that bars and restaurants serve liquor only from mini-bottles like those on airplanes.

Utah

Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, despite vigorous opposition from critics who said it would endanger Utah's common-law marriage statute.

Virginia

Voters backed constitutional amendment expanding list of successors to governor in event of an emergency.

Washington

Voters rejected a 1-cent sales tax increase for education and turned down a proposal to allow state-funded charter schools.

West Virginia

Measure passed to authorize state to pay bonuses to veterans who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq.

Wyoming

Voters rejected constitutional amendment to allow Legislature to put caps on medical malpractice damage awards.

- Associated Press