- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to repeal the state income tax Tuesday as ballot measures across the nation addressed a host of contentious issues ranging from gay marriage to abortion.

The Massachusetts measure would have deprived the state of an estimated 40 percent of its tax revenues and, according to leading opponents, would have forced a drastic cutback of programs and services.

Of the 153 measures at stake nationwide, the most momentous was a proposed constitutional amendment in California that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

Similar measures have prevailed previously in 27 states, but none were in California’s situation - with thousands of gay couples already married following a state Supreme Court ruling in May.

The opposing sides together raised about $70 million, much of it from out of state, to wage their campaigns for an outcome that, either way, would have a huge impact on prospects for spreading same-sex marriage to the 47 states that do not allow it.

Though Democratic Sen. Barack Obama was heavily favored to win the presidential balloting in California, the vote on the marriage amendment was expected to be close. A crucial question was how churchgoing black and Hispanic voters - presumably a pro-Obama constituency - would vote on the ballot measure.

Both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, have said they oppose same-sex marriage. But Mr. Obama, unlike Mr. McCain, opposed the California amendment and endorsed the concept of broader rights for same-sex couples.

Ban-gay-marriage amendments also were on the ballot in Florida and Arizona, while Arkansas had a measure that would prohibit unmarried couples from adopting or being foster parents. Conservatives supporting the measure said it was aimed at same-sex couples who are able to adopt and be foster parents in most states.

South Dakota’s ballot included an initiative that would ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest and a serious health threat to the mother. A tougher law without the rape and incest exceptions was defeated in 2006. A recent poll on the new version suggested the outcome was too close to call.

Passage, observers said, would likely trigger a legal challenge that could lead to the U.S. Supreme Court and a reconsideration of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Colorado was considering an amendment that would define human life as beginning at conception. It didn’t explicitly mention abortion, but activists on both sides in the campaign saw it as a direct challenge to abortion rights.

Two other measures also drew the interest of the rival sides in the abortion debate - a California proposition that would require parental notification for a minor’s abortion and a Michigan initiative that would loosen restrictions on stem-cell research.

Initiatives in Colorado and Nebraska would ban race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington.

In Washington state, voters were deciding whether to join Oregon as the only states offering terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

Massachusetts also had measures that would ban dog racing and decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Use of marijuana for medical purposes would become legal under a measure in Michigan.

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