Since I am not on the blacklist for marriage commentators, here is my take on marriage elections this year. The press is reporting the Maryland Marriage Alliance is gathering signatures to send a referendum on the same-sex marriage law just passed in the legislature to the voters. A similar petition drive is taking place in Washington, sponsored by Preserve Marriage Washington. North Carolina’s proposed marriage amendment will be voted on in May, and Minnesota’s will be on the November ballot. On the other side, same-sex marriage advocates have gathered signatures to send an initiative to the voters that would create gay marriage in Maine. The presidential election will pit a challenger who strongly supports marriage as the union of a husband and wife with a president who is actively working in the federal courts to remove that definition from federal law.
All of this adds up to a major voter referendum on the definition of marriage. Whatever happens in the presidential election, the prospect for marriage supporters is quite good. Up to this point, whenever states have put marriage amendments on the ballot, voters have approved them (though in Arizona it took two votes), and Maine voters in 2009 rejected gay marriage in a referendum. It seems likely the pro-gay-marriage campaign will focus on wild predictions of unintended consequences from the marriage amendments, though these have never materialized in other states where marriage amendments have been approved. There will also probably be a focus on the grudging “religious liberty” concessions in the Maryland, Washington, and Maine laws, though redefining marriage is going to cause cultural and legal difficulties for people of faith regardless of any legal opt outs. My guess is that voters will see these contests for what they are — an opportunity to prevent a redefinition of marriage that would eliminate the institution’s child-centered purpose.