Things To Act
Thursday, July 08, 2004
 
Marriage Amendments
By now, it is of course old (nearly 24 hours) news that the Church issued a statement on marriage amendments:
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement today. This is a statement of principle in anticipation of the expected debate over same-gender marriage. It is not an endorsement of any specific amendment.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman."
SLTrib
Desnews

Two things struck me immediately about the announcement. One is the low emphasis on the Church's website, and the other is the statement's ambiguity concerning federal versus state amendments. News accounts indicate that the Church spokesperson evidently did clarify that the statement is intended to apply to state-level amendments as well.

The Utah Legislature has referred an anti-SSM constitutional amendment to the fall ballot. The amendment, though its 60% initial support was a bit low for where a 'yes' ballot proposition campaign wants to be at this point, still looked quite likely to pass before this announcement. With the announcement, it seems close to certain, barring miracles from the 'no' campaign. The 'no' campaign's only real hope at this point is to try to play up the issue of whether the Utah amendment goes to far--ie, the issues about completely banning any civil recognition, or ending common law marriages, and so on. However, such tactics depend not only on the hope that enough LDS voters will carefully parse First Presidency messages for implications and shades of meaning, but will also be opposed to banning common-law marriages or civil unions.

Utah, however, is not the only state in which this is a ballot issue. Seven state legislatures to date have referred amendments to the ballot, and four state initiative petition drives appear to have qualified for the ballot as well (with two more initiative states with later deadlines not out of the picture either).

Issues to watch (both of general and LDS interest) include arguments for possible effects on other elections, including the Presidential election (if such ballot issues affect turnout on either the yes or no side), the question of the whether the early-voting states will influence, and to what degree, the later-voting states, the degree of support the Church lends to such efforts and where, and potential public relations effects, if any, on the Church's decisions. For fun, we'll look at 2000 election numbers and the approximate number of LDS stakes in the state (as a back-of-the-envelope rough guess of LDS strength on the ground).

Voting first will be Missouri, thanks to a state supreme court ruling that the Legislature's careful attempts to make the letter of state law force the issue to the November ballot could be overruled by the Democratic governor's desire to vote earlier (he, at least, evidently believed the higher conservative turnout theory). So Missouri will vote on the legislature-referred state consitutional anti-SSM amendment on 3 August 2004. Missouri is considered a bellweather swing state. In 2000 it went 50-47-2 for Bush (~2.3m voters). Missouri evidently has about 13 LDS stakes.

Voting next (on a legislature-referred amendment) will be Louisiania, on 18 September 2004. LA went 53-45-1 for Bush (~1.8m voters), but is considered competitive by some (though if Bush loses there, he's likely in enough trouble everywhere that it won't matter). LA evidently has about 7 LDS stakes.

Other legislative-referred states voting on the issue in the general election in November include GA, MS, KY, OK, and UT. None are presidential swing states.

GA: 55-43-1 for Bush (~2.5m voters). About 14 LDS stakes.

MS: 58-41-1 for Bush (~1m voters). About 4 LDS stakes.

KY: 57-41-2 for Bush (~1.5m voters). About 5 LDS stakes.

OK: 60-38 for Bush (~1.2m voters). About 7 LDS stakes.

UT: 67-26-5 for Bush (~700K voters). Lots and lots of LDS stakes.

Assuming all of the initiative states that have submitted signatures qualify (not necesarily a good assumption, given the determination of opponents to use legal challenges to try to keep it off the ballot, and given the high bar some states set--look at the failure of the UT open spaces initiative), the issue would go on the ballot in AR, MI, MT, and OR, of which all but Montana are considered swing states.

AR: 51-46-1 for Bush (~900K voters). About 4 LDS stakes.

MI: 46-51-2 for Gore (~4.2m voters). About 8 LDS stakes.

MT: 58-33-6 for Bush (~400K voters). About 11 LDS stakes.

OR: 47-47-5 for Gore (~1.5m voters). About 32 LDS stakes.

ND and OH are evidently still conducting signature drives, and may qualify for the ballot.

ND: 61-33-3 Bush (~300K voters). About 2 LDS stakes.

OH: 50-46-3 Bush (~4.7m voters, major swing state). About 11 LDS states.

On a first pass, it seems to me that if the Church wants to mobilize in any of those states beyond Utah, Oregon may the the one with the most potential to make much of a difference, followed by Montana.

Meanwhile, the issue of what effect such state efforts to constitutionalize DOMA may have on the federal FMA amendment is also complex and probably worthy of another post (perhaps after I get some work done).

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