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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 10, 2006

At last, a ban fails

Arizona turns down a marriage amendment as 7 others pass by lower margins

Phoenix--Arizonans made history in the �culture wars� on November 7, as their state became the first to defeat an anti-marriage amendment. But voters in seven other states passed them.

By a slim 2% margin, Arizona voters rejected Proposition 107, which mirrored Ohio�s anti-marriage amendment barring same-sex marriage and the recognition of relationships similar to marriage, like domestic partnerships and civil unions.

Same-sex marriage is already illegal under Arizona law.

Opponents of Proposition 107 tried a different tactic in the Grand Canyon state than elsewhere in the nation: instead of framing it as an issue of social justice for LGBT people, much of the opposition was illustrated by the effects it would have on opposite-sex, unmarried couples.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and recently retired University of Arizona President Peter Likins went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the measure from the ballot.

In neighboring Colorado, an anti-marriage amendment passed while an initiative to introduce domestic partnership benefits went down in defeat.

The anti-marriage amendment won with about 56 percent of the vote, while the domestic partnership measure, which would have been a law, not a constitutional amendment, took nearly 47 percent.

About two-thirds of the voters in Idaho approved that state�s ban amendment, while nearly three-quarters of South Carolinans approved their measure. South Dakota�s ban on same-sex marriage squeaked through with 52 percent of the vote, although voters also struck down the state�s draconian abortion ban, put in place to challenge the Supreme Court�s 1973 Roe v. Wade case establishing a woman�s right to have one.

Tennessee significantly bucked the national trend of relatively tight margins on ban amendments, with 82 percent of voters approving Constitutional Amendment 1 on the ballot.

Virginia, where marriage advocates held out a slim chance of winning, approved its amendment with 57 percent of the vote, and Wisconsin, which pundits thought might go the way of Arizona, passed their amendment with 58 percent.

�It�s clear that fear-mongering around same-sex marriage by the GOP and the extreme Christian right is fizzling out,� said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. �It doesn�t have the juice it had just two years ago--people are getting sick of it.�

Eleven marriage ban amendments were passed in the November 2004 election, most with percentages in the 60s and 70s. With the latest seven, 27 states now have the measures.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts, the only state to allow same-sex marriages, were set to consider an amendment November 9 that would trump the court ruling that allows them.

Queer candidates fare well nationally

The Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C. group that supports LGBT candidates they believe have a decent chance of winning, reported 67 candidates across the nation took their seats.

The fund endorsed 88 candidates in total, which spokesperson Denis Dison described as the largest slate in his group�s history.

That 75-percent win rate impressed him.

�I think it�s our highest ever in a general election,� he said.

At the head of the list were openly gay and lesbian U.S. House members Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Baldwin easily won re-election; Frank was unopposed. A third gay House member, Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe, is retiring and did not run.

Among the other races to which the Victory Fund paid special attention, some were in states that, until now, had no openly queer elected officials.

Patricia Todd, the first gay person ever elected in Alabama, now has a seat in the state�s House of Representatives. She is joined by Kathy Webb in the Arkansas House, that state�s first LGBT elected official.

Indiana�s first queer candidate to be elected is Henry Fernandez, who won a seat on the Lawrence Township School Board.

Oklahoma got its first LGBT state legislator in Al McAffrey and Jolie Justus will be Missouri�s first gay state senator.

While many other LGBT candidates ran without Victory Fund endorsement, the most notable of those is Kim Coco Iwamoto of Hawaii, whose win of a state board of education seat for Oahu-at-large makes her the first transgender candidate elected to statewide office in U.S. history. She beat out a former state legislator and two other contenders for the position.

Outed politicians are elected

There were four races in which a candidate has been revealed against his will to be gay, either during the race or earlier.

Former Rep. Mark Foley left his Florida seat in the U.S. House open when he resigned last month in a scandal over sexual emails sent to pages. The Florida GOP named Joe Negron to run in his place, but Foley�s name remained on the ballot and his Democratic challenger Tim Mahoney came from behind to win the seat.

Three outed politicians that did run fared much better in their contests.

Former Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, awash with rumors about his sexual orientation, was outed by the Reform Party candidate for governor, Max Linn, on a radio show in September. An October story in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times featured a male GOP staffer who claimed to have had sex with Crist, who denies being gay.

Crist handily defeated Democratic candidate Jim Davis to replace Jeb Bush as governor of Florida in January.

Rep. David Dreier of California, who has been outed by at least three media sources including Hustler magazine, L.A. Weekly and Mike Rogers� website, turned back his challenger but will lose the chair of the House Rules Committee when the Democrats take over in January.

Louisiana�s Rep. James McCrery was outed by the Advocate in 1992, then again in 2004 when Blogactive reprinted the story. He has never publicly acknowledged this.

He took 57 percent of the vote, turning away three challengers who split the field.

Placing blame

Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of the gay and lesbian Log Cabin Republicans, was quick to point out why the GOP lost control of the House of Representatives and a significant number of governors� mansions, while control of the Senate rests with tight races in Virginia and Montana.

�Republicans lost this election because independent voters abandoned the GOP,� he said. �Social conservatives drove the GOP�s agenda the last several years. Their divisive agenda alienated the mainstream Republicans and independents who determined this election�s outcome. Social conservatives should take responsibility for this loss.�

Pundits and observers have spent the last month referring to this election as a national referendum on the Bush administration, its policies in Iraq, and a perceived culture of corruption in the party, with the Abramoff and Foley scandals taking center stage in the evening news.

Missouri voters passed a referendum calling for stem cell research to be protected in the state, the third loss for social conservatives after Arizona�s defeat of the marriage ban amendment and South Dakota�s scuttling of its anti-abortion law.

All three issues have been pushed by Republican Party leadership as part of White House advisor Karl Rove�s plan to appease religious conservatives.

�Our party�s congressional leaders drove over the bridge to nowhere and left their principles behind,� Sammon continued. �GOP leaders lost sight of what brought our party to power in 1994. Limited government, lower spending, high ethical standards and accountability, and other unifying GOP principles attracted a broad coalition of support.�

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