Since the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its ruling on same-sex unions, Bush and the religious right have amped up their gay-baiting rhetoric in a last ditch effort to turn out so-called values voters. On the stump in Missouri and Montana — where polls show Democrats Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester in dead heats with their GOP opponents — Bush once again raised the specter of “activist judges.” Of course, the Haggard scandal threatens to puncture these desperate measures, but even before Pastor Ted’s sex, drugs and voicemail indiscretions surfaced, all signs indicated that anti-gay marriage measures have failed to motivate vaunted values voters.
I’ve been speaking with organizers in the eight states (WI, CO, AZ, SD, VA, TN, SC, ID) where defense of marriage amendments are on the ballot. You’ll find a partial report below. I’ll update this post with more state dispatches, so check back again.
A few broad patterns have become clear. First, the New Jersey decision has had little impact on state campaigns; the right-wing has ticked up its rhetoric, but there’s no discernible shift in polls or mood at the state level. Second, marriage amendments will have little impact on top of the ticket races, which have been focused on either the Iraq War or locally hot issues like immigration (AZ) or abortion (SD). Third, even GOP candidates and right-wing activists have shied away from emphasizing their support of marriage amendments; it’s in their arsenal but not their best weapon. Finally, 2006 may be a watershed year. A set of smart, scrappy, grassroots campaigns are poised to make history, becoming the first to defeat anti-gay marriage amendments at the voting booth.
On election day Arizonans will vote on Prop. 107, the “Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment.” Modeled after far-reaching bans like Ohio’s, Prop. 107 would not only define marriage as a “union between one man and one woman,” but also bar the state from recognizing any status that is “similar to that of marriage” (civil unions, domestic partnerships and reciprocal beneficiaries). For over a year polls have consistently predicted that Prop. 107 would fail, and although numbers have tightened — the most recent polls still tip against the amendment but fall within the margin of error — No on 107 campaign chair Cindy Jordan is optimistic that Arizona will reject the amendment.