Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Voters in eight states are expected Tuesday to pass constitutional amendments that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But in at least three states, the margin of victory — if there is one — may be razor-thin.

In Arizona, a recent Northern Arizona University (NAU) poll shows Proposition 107 squeaking by, 51 percent to 42 percent, which is “way too close for comfort,” said Cathi Herrod of Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition.

The Arizona amendment has attracted huge public support — more than 300,000 people signed petitions to get it on the ballot — and survived a court challenge. But it also has been targeted for defeat by a well-organized coalition called Arizona Together, which says the amendment will hurt both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Several polls, including one by Arizona State University (ASU) and KAET-TV, indicate the amendment will be soundly defeated. Recent ASU polling results, which show 30 percent of voters supporting the amendment, “reaffirm that Arizona voters do not want to take away health care from families,” said state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a leader of Arizona Together.

Mrs. Herrod said NAU used the ballot language in its poll and is a more accurate reflection of voter intent. But she worries that the opponents’ vigorous campaign and voter complacency will pose problems. “People think these marriage amendments pass easily. That’s not true,” she said.

In Wisconsin and South Dakota, polls have shown marriage amendments headed for defeat. Fair Wisconsin, which opposes the amendment, has promised to run “one of the biggest campaigns in the state in 2006.” In South Dakota, a poll released in August showed the amendment losing, 49 percent to 41 percent, and South Dakotans Against Discrimination has initiated a radio and print campaign to educate voters about this “poorly worded” and “extreme” amendment, said spokesman Jon Hoadley.

But traditional-values groups in those states say they have no intention of losing. “There is just a groundswell of movement in support of this amendment,” said Julaine Appling of Vote Yes for Marriage in Madison, Wis., noting that recent polls have consistently put them ahead by 51 percent to 53 percent.

Rob Regier of the South Dakota Family Policy Council said he can’t explain polls showing a defeat for the marriage amendment, but he noted that at least one poll showed the amendment winning by a landslide. South Dakota voters are “still pretty conservative,” he said. “I don’t see South Dakota being the first and only state to lose a marriage amendment.”

Polls in South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia suggest those amendments will pass. In Idaho, citizens lobbied lawmakers for more than three years to pass an amendment, and at least one poll showed a 2-to-1 margin of support, “so I think it will pass,” said Marriage Protection Alliance leader Julie Lynde.

Colorado has two marriage-related measures that are expected to pass: A new Denver Post poll of 625 voters indicated a marriage amendment would win, 51 percent to 43 percent, as would a domestic partnership law, 47 percent to 42 percent.

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