Analyzing the same-sex marriage ban vote

Republicans at the Minnesota Capitol today announced attempts to put before voters a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It comes as no surprise since that’s exactly what they said they’d do not long after last November’s election, which wiped out the last vestige of DFL influence in the Legislature: the Senate.

In early interviews in January, the leaders, however, said “there’d be time” for the issue at some point in the session, but the focus would be on passing a state budget.

We’re a month from the end of the session, and there’s no sign of a budget being passed. Time is running out to get the same-sex marriage amendment on the 2012 ballot. Today, five Republicans filed SF1308.

Opponents of the amendment have annually suggested that it’s a way to get Republican conservatives to turn out for a re-election bid. In Indiana last month, state Sen. Dennis Kruse said here are 30 states that now have a marriage amendment to their constitution, “and they all passed in all 30 states by an average of 68 percent of the electorate,” Kruse said.

Does an amendment increase voter turnout?

In Maine last November, 53-percent of the voters voted to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law. Turnout was heavy, but both sides said a heavy turnout favored those in favor of allowing same sex marriage. “It means we succeeded in reaching younger people and others who don’t always vote,” said Mark Sullivan, spokesman for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, the coalition seeking to uphold the law.

In a paper released last month (open in Word), researchers in Wisconsin pointed out that regardless of what pre-election polls said about opposition to same-sex marriage, the percentage of people actually voting for a ban on same-sex marriage was markedly higher.

In North Dakota in 2004, for example, polls showed 52% of those surveyed were against same-sex marriage. On Election Day, 68% voted against it. In Wisconsin in 2006, 59% voted against same-sex marriage, compared to 53% who voiced opposition in a late pre-election poll.

Possibly more significant, however, is this finding: The question could make Republican allies of a traditional DFL voter: The African American.

“The higher the proportion of African Americans in the county, the higher the vote for banning same sex marriage. While this fails to confirm our hypothesis, this result seems easily explained as an indication that, on the issue of same-sex marriage, the LGBT community’s argument that marriage is a civil right, and not a moral question, has failed to win favor among black citizens.”

But, the researchers said, there are three “striking” conclusions from their study (emphasis mine):

First, the noticeable impact that time has. There is clearly an increase in support for gay marriage over time and it will be particularly interesting to see if this issue follows a similar trajectory to gays serving in the military. That is a highly controversial issue that is met with a compromise that provides only partial equality (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the military case, civil unions in the case of gay marriage) followed a generation later by full recognition of equality. Second, the very big impact that turnout has and the possible implications for results. To take one concrete example, Colorado in 2006 voted 55-45 to ban same sex marriage. Turnout among registered voters was 19 percent higher in the 2008 presidential election. If we assume a 19 percent increase in turnout, our regression equation predicts almost a 4 point drop in the yes vote. Such a drop would transform this race from a very comfortable ten point win for the referendum to a nail biter at 51-49. The third impact we believe is worthy of more extensive consideration is the differences in referendum language. This is because this issue has broader implications beyond just this question, but because of the significance for democratic theory and discussions of referendum as a democratic tool. That is a discussion for another paper.

  • jon

    I love the signs “I support traditional marriage.”

    I kinda wish I was getting married to a girl who’s parents had a sign like that… then I could get a nice little dowry to go along with it. Maybe some Cows!! or better still for a City boy like me some Steaks!

  • Ben O

    This is so sad. I am disappointed that our state’s leaders are not beyond this issue. Do we really want to live in a state where, based purely on sexual identity, we restrict personal freedoms for select groups of people?

  • David

    The last couple of national polls have shown a majority in favor of marriage equality. a 20+ point swing in just a few years.

    The problem for supporters of equality is that for those that oppose it, it’s a major issue that can drive their voting decisions, while for many people that say they support equality, may only be a minor issue they consider.

  • Peter

    I invite any law maker over to my house before voting for this hateful amendment. Come spend time with my partner of 10 years and our 3 year old son. Say it to my face why I should not be allowed to get married after spending time with us. This is a hateful, hurtful amendment that will only divide the people of our state. I am sickened to find out that this is going forward. It makes me want to leave the state and move someplace where I am valued and respected. I will bring with me all the tax money I pay to this state, and all the other benefits that my family brings to this state. I am disgusted.

  • ChuckGG

    I am originally from Maine and plan to retire there. I was very disappointed in the results of the People’s Veto results. The Legislature had passed the Marriage Equality law and the Governor signed it into law. Then, NOM and a local group garnered some 55,000 signatures to place the question on the ballot. This, coincidentally, is the same number of people in Maine who think the world is flat.

    This mess in Maine still is unfolding as court cases to reveal the names of the donors to NOM move forward. It is suspected the major contributors were the Mormon and Catholic churches. The hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    The only objection I ever have heard to same-sex marriage comes from people with religious objections. Unfortunately, they cannot distinguish the difference between a secular, civil marriage and a religious ceremony. It seems to be beyond them. And, why a non-member of their church is subject to their restrictions eludes me.

    The vote in Maine came down to only 33,000 votes in an off-year election with no candidates up for a seat and only referendum questions. Also, the wording (as mentioned the article above) was poorly worded. One had to vote “no” on Question 1 in order for SSM to stand. The question was whether or not to repeal SSM. Answering Yes, would have killed SSM (and did) while answering “No” on SSM allowed the law to stand. Very awkwardly worded.

    Additionally, the religious types are always saying we account for only 3% of the population. Well, clearly, 47% of the general population voted in our favor. The demographics were clear: In the larger cities, wealthier areas, and college towns, the vote was strongly pro-SSM. In the poor, rural, and less educated (and more religious) areas, the vote was strongly anti-SSM.

    As a result of this rather backward move by Maine, resulting in the loss of an estimated $20M/year in tourism and embarrassment compared to the other New England states, the pundits have now labeled Maine as “Mississippi North.”

    I hang my head in shame.

  • JackU

    I heard an interesting quote from one of the legislators involved on Morning Edition this morning. They want to get the bill out there so that there is a year and a half for discussion of the issue before the vote.

    I fear a year and a half of Orwellian Double Speak personally. And the word to suffer the most will be tolerance. Those in favor of SSM marriage will site it as an example of a tolerant society. Those apposed will see it not as tolerance but as an aggressive assault on their beliefs and life style.

  • Bruce

    A ballot with a constitutional amendment probably does increase voter turnout and one on this topic I’m sure will.

    That aside, my own view is that whatever your stance on same sex marriage, a definition of marriage has no place in a state or the federal constitution.

  • Mike P.

    There are problems with comparing marriage with DADT. One would be that in 1993, polls showed a majority of people support Clinton’s original plan, but he backed off. Another is that deference to the military leaders is the way mcuh of this policy is sorted out. The final reason is that most religious institutions -the Catholic Church chief among them- do not and never have had positions on DADT, whereas they do on marriage.

  • Elizabeth T

    In the US, where we cling to the idea of separation of church and state to the point of obsession at times … the clergy is allowed to legally marry you with the approval of the state.

    In Germany, a country where there is no absolute separation between church and state, in order to marry, the state requires that you have a civil service. Anything else you want, i.e. a religious service, is up to you. As the clergy is not allowed to perform this legal function, you have to have a marriage license in hand in order to get the religious service done.

    I’m all in favor of Germany’s system. If you want to belong to a church which won’t marry you, that’s your choice, but this choice shouldn’t preclude you from being able to legally obtain the civil benefits of marriage.

    We should, as a country, admit that there is no absolute separation of church & state. We allow religious organizations tax benefits; we let their clergy perform civil functions (marriage); we allow them exemptions to rather iron-clad criminal law (giving alcohol to minors). Just fess up and admit there’s no separation before trying to push religious dogma through as civil law.

  • TJSwift

    I have news for those that believe forcing this issue through the courts will bring value and respectibility of their sexual proclivities from others: It don’t work that way.

    This is a free country, and as long as you’re not harming others (something that can be argued both ways about homosexual behavior) go to it.

    However, we are just as free to decide our moral boundries and acceptable traditions.

    Either way this vote goes, and there will be a vote, people are not going to change their minds about homosexuality.