- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2004

State constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman are likely to pass in all 11 states where they are on the Nov. 2 ballot, making the amendment a factor in the presidential race in three battleground states — Michigan, Ohio and Oregon.

The big question is whether President Bush or Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry will benefit from having the amendment on the ballot.

“It’s really a fascinating question. I don’t have an answer,” said Brad Snavely, executive director of the Michigan Family Forum, a traditional-values group that supports Michigan’s marriage amendment.

“I think it’s difficult to tell at this point,” said Christopher Barron, political director of the homosexual-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, which opposes the amendments. “There are so many wild cards in this election … these state amendments are wild cards.”

In addition to defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, all but one of the amendments — Montana’s — says other marriage-like unions — such as civil unions of same-sex couples — will not be recognized.

Recent polls indicate that the 11 amendments are likely to pass, with support ranging from 52 percent in North Dakota to 77 percent in Arkansas.

Opponents of the amendments have depicted them as crass attempts to attract voters for Mr. Bush, who supports a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Mr. Kerry, who represents Massachusetts in the Senate, has said that although he thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman, he doesn’t support a federal constitutional amendment defining the institution.

The amendments in Michigan, Ohio and Oregon were pushed onto November ballots by massive petition drives led by conservative groups. Amendment supporters maintain that they are responding to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in November that legalized same-sex “marriage” in that state.

The only way to trump “activist” judges is to define marriage in their state constitution, amendment supporters say.

Of the 11 states considering marriage amendments, eight — Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Utah — are considered solidly in Mr. Bush’s camp, according to yesterday’s Washington Dispatch, an online poll-watching group that bills itself as “across the political spectrum.”

In the battleground states of Michigan, Ohio and Oregon, however, it’s not clear whether pro-amendment votes will translate into pro-Bush votes: Conservative Democrats, minorities and union members are just a few of the groups considered likely to vote for both the amendments and Mr. Kerry.

“I don’t think it’s clear that [the amendment] will help the president in Michigan,” said Mr. Snavely, adding that exit polls will capture the amendments’ impact by asking about voter motivation.

In states such as Mississippi, the effect is clearer. The marriage amendment is galvanizing traditional-values voters, who are likely to pull levers both for the amendment and Mr. Bush.

“I think it can’t do anything other than help the Bush campaign,” said Don Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association in Tupelo, Miss.

“If you’d asked me a year ago [about voter participation], I’d have answered a different way. A year ago, they were not motivated to vote,” Mr. Wildmon said. But with the amendment, “if they don’t come out now — what’s the saying? Speak now or forever hold your peace?”

Homosexual-rights activists are urging their allies to turn out in droves to vote against the amendments and for Mr. Kerry.

In light of Oregon’s latest polls, which show growing support for the amendment, homosexual activists also are bracing for the worst — and are planning on postelection victories in the courts.

“Just because stuff passes on November 2 doesn’t mean it’s the end of the day,” said Andy Thayer, a leader of www.DontAmend.com, a group that is fighting the amendments.

“The court, as we saw in Louisiana, could throw it out,” he said, referring to the Louisiana marriage amendment, which recently was overturned by a judge despite being approved by 78 percent of voters. That ruling is being appealed.

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