Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota voters will face a simple yes or no question on their ballots this November, the results of which may establish marriage equality (or, in the case of Minnesota, inequality) in each state.
In Maryland, where same-sex marriage is set to be legal on January 1, the ballot will ask voter approval. It will read in part:
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs.
A recent Washington Post poll shows support for this measure coming in a 52% compared to 43% for the opposition.
Washington’s question, to approve a bill passed by the legislature, reads:
This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
A Wednesday report showed support for this measure is under 50% but leads opposition 49%-45%. Earlier polling showed support at 54%.
In Maine, a citizen’s initiative — after an up-and-down multi-year struggle (is it legal? is it illegal?) — has gotten the following question on the ballot:
Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
In May of 2009, then-Governor John Baldacci (D) signed into law a bill affirming marriage equality and protecting religious freedoms. Opponents launched a campaign which ultimately succeeded as a people’s veto, overturning the legislation in November of 2009. This time, supporters of marriage equality launched their own campaign, and as a citizen’s initiative were able to get this question on the ballot.
ThinkProgress reported a 57%-39% opposition in mid-October.
A vote of approval on these questions in these three states signifies the voter’s interest in promoting marriage equality in their state and joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and New York. In each case, it is clear that religious institutions and their clergy would not be bound to perform ceremonies with which they disagreed on a religious basis. The right of any two people to obtain a state-issued marriage license would be affirmed.
In Minnesota, though, voters are being asked to amend the state constitution to establish legal discrimination by defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. Thirty other states have constitutionally banned non-heterosexual marriage. (My question: what about non-traditional gender identity?)
The amendment would read as follows: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” The ballot questions asks:
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?
An early October poll shows 46% in favor of and 49% against the amendment. An earlier poll shows a 49%-47% split, but the differences in both sets of numbers are within the sampling error and indicate neck-and-neck competition: we’ll have to wait and see.
The question and rhetoric of marriage has so far proven divisive but as goes civil rights in this country, the side of equality ought, if not shall, triumph.