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National NOW Times >> Winter 2004/2005 >> Article

Debunking the Morality Myth & Same-Sex Ballot Initiatives

by Leanne Libert, Managing Editor

On Nov. 2, initiatives banning same-sex marriage passed in all 11 states where they appeared on the ballot. Three more states have begun the process of writing discrimination into their constitutions by denying equal marriage rights.

Right-wing forces and the mainstream media used these initiatives to make claims that the electorate swung far to the right in this election, showing intolerance for the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community.

Ballot Initiatives Banning Same-Sex Marriage & Civil Unions
(percent for—percent against)

Arkansas 75-25
Georgia 76-24
Kentucky 75-25
Michigan 59-41
Mississippi 86-14*
Montana 67-33*
North Dakota 73-27
Ohio 62-38
Oklahoma 76-24
Oregon 57-43*
Utah 66-34

*banned same-sex marriage, not civil unions

However, polling shows that most voters do not harbor feelings of bigotry and homophobia, despite the administration's divide and conquer strategy. In fact, 60 percent of voters said they support either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

"We cannot stand by and allow the lesbian and gay community to be blamed for losing the election," said Olga Vives, NOW Action Vice President. "It simply is not true."

According to pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Snell Perry Associates, the media falsely asserted that anti-marriage ballot initiatives drove up voter turnout in battleground states.

Actually, turnout was up 6.9 percent in battleground states without a ban on the ballot, but increased only 6.6 percent in battleground states with a ban on the ballot.

The placement of these initiatives on ballots in battleground states was nothing more than an appeal to the religious right by Karl Rove to motivate the evangelical vote.

Headlines and White House press releases announced that the moral majority had spoken, based on an exit poll reporting that 22 percent of voters named "moral values" as the most important issue guiding their decision. Keep in mind that the same poll reported only 18 percent of all voters both cast a ballot for George W. Bush and selected "moral values" as their top issue. Morality voters were not asked and did not specify if they believe homosexuality or same-sex marriage is immoral. Push the morality frenzy aside and relax.

Don't buy into the administration's plan to demoralize liberals by making us feel like a minority, when in fact the raw numbers from exit polls prove otherwise. Even if (and what a big "if" that is) that group of voters sided with Bush's world view and morality, they only constitute seven percent of the entire U.S. population. Look who's the minority now.

Trends in national polls show that an increasing number of people support full marriage equality for LGBT people and their families. In 1996, a Gallup poll reported that only 27 percent of people in the U.S. believed same-sex marriage should be legal.

In less than a decade, favor for same-sex marriage grew by 15 points, when 42 percent of people polled in May 2004 favored same-sex marriage. Moral values of the U.S. are headed in the right direction.

The numbers also show that work remains to be done. The amendments in three states banned only same-sex marriage. The others banned civil unions and domestic partnerships. The Ohio amendment prevents same-sex partners from receiving any type of marriage benefits.

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