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November 3, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 44
 
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Anti-Gay ballot measures loom over eight states
Anti-Gay ballot measures loom over eight states
Untitled Document

“It is always hard to say how things are going and what the horse race is actually
going to be,” said HRC’s Marty Rouse.

by Robert Raketty
SGN Staff Writer

While the nation focuses on the potential change to the balance of power in the
Congress that could result from the outcome of the November 7th elections, the threat of
anti-Gay ballot measures also loom over the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
community in eight states.

In 2004, anti-Gay measures and amendments relating to marriage passed in 11
states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota,
Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma and Utah. It was a bruising defeat to the psyche of the LGBT
community.

The measures were inspired – in part – by a Massachusetts high court ruling that
extended marriage equality to same-sex couples. A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last
month that seeks to pave the way for civil unions or marriage for such couples, threatens
to further inflame the popularity of the ballot measures and turn out conservative
Americans who oppose equal rights for LGBT people.

After a string of judicial defeats this summer, the November 7th elections are also
an opportunity to see how much attitudes have changed on the topic of marriage equality
and equal rights. Extensive nationwide education efforts from pro-LGBT groups will be
put to the test.

On Tuesday, voters in eight states will have a chance to weigh in. Anti-Gay ballot
measures will come before voters in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) spent more than $6.5 million dollars on
election efforts nationwide in 2004. This year’s amount could be equally impressive as
HRC and other groups seek to help pro-LGBT candidates in tight races and to stem the
tide of electoral defeats.

“It is too hard to say whether or not we will actually defeat any of these
amendments,” Marty Rouse, National Field Director of HRC, told the Seattle Gay News
on Wednesday. “It is always hard to say how things are going and what the horse race is
actually going to be. What I can say is that -- compared to two years ago -- organizations
fighting against these bans on the ground are running better campaigns and are getting
much more support than they were two years ago.

“We have to understand that we are not going to win equality by defeating bans
on partnership recognition. We are going to win equality over a multi-year struggle for
our rights. ... We are on the right side. It is just going to take us much longer than we
want.”

According to Rouse, HRC has made significant cash contributions to several of
the campaigns, sent staff, helped to leverage additional funds and is mobilizing its
members turn out at the polls. “The more visible our campaigns can be -- meaning on the
ground, in the media (paid and unpaid media), and the more conversations we have with
more voters – the better likelihood we have that we will defeat one or more of these
amendments on Tuesday,” he explained.

The SGN spoke with the staffers of four of the campaigns this week to hear first
hand about the progress being made and what is happening on the ground.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Campaign: Fairness for All Families
Amendment 1 would amend the state constitution to prohibit equal marriage
rights for same-sex couples and limit benefits to same-sex couples and their families.


Common law marriage may also be eliminated and domestic violence laws, protections
and support systems may no longer apply to same-sex couples.

SGN: What progress has been made by the campaign and its partners?
Asha Leong, Campaign Manager: Tremendous progress considering it is the
first time ever that the LGBT community is trying to push the outcome of an election in
our state. The Fairness for All Families campaign is focused on building political power
for the long term for South Carolina’s LGBT community. The South Carolina Equality
Coalition has canvassed door-to-door, held countless voter education events and placed
the largest media buy of its kind in the state.

SGN: Are you optimistic about your chances?

AL: It’s no secret we have a challenge on our hands here in South Carolina;
however, we have found that once we have an opportunity to educate a registered voter --
even those planning on voting yes – they, in turn, commit to voting no. We just found out
by surveying fairgoers at the SC State Fair that 80 percent planned to vote no.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

AL: Please support this tremendous work being done in South Carolina -- the
buckle of the bible belt -- by visiting our website (www.dumbamendment.com) today to
learn how you can help.

TENNESSEE
Campaign: Vote No on 1
Amendment One would permanently deny equal marriage rights to Tennessee’s
same-sex couples
.

It could be used to justify the denial of domestic partner benefits at
state institutions and agencies to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples and may have
other unintended consequences.

SGN: What progress has been made by the campaign and its partners?
Randy Tarkington, Campaign Manager: We have organized all across
Tennessee from Memphis through Nashville to Knoxville. Our mailing list has increased
ten fold. In addition, we have over 60 leaders of faith who have endorsed our campaign.
We have had great response from young people with over 5,000 having joined our
Facebook and My Space groups. We have received the endorsement of every major
newspaper in Tennessee. We are so much better prepared and organized for future
battles.

SGN: Are you optimistic about your chances?

RT: We know we have a very uphill struggle here. Nashville is the home of the
Southern Baptist Convention. James Dobson has contributed significant resources to our
opponents. That being said, the response we have received statewide has been amazing.
So, we believe we have already won regardless of what happens on November 7.
We remain optimistic about the vote.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

RT: We are based in Nashville and the music community has been very
supportive of us. Go to www.voteNOon1TN.com and download the song “Blame the
Gays.” It is a song written by Nashville singer/songwriter Tammy Fowler. It is a very
timely and funny look at how the right tries to blame all the ills of society on the GLBT
community. It is a great song and readers can download it for $5.00 with $3.00 of that
supporting our campaign in Tennessee. The song and information about Tammy are
featured in this month's Advocate.

VIRGINIA

Campaign: The Commonwealth Coalition
Ballot Question #1, the Marshall/Newman amendment, is a proposed amendment
to Virginia’s bill of rights that will take rights away from all unmarried individuals, Gay
and straight.


Under this proposal, no civil unions, no domestic partnerships and no other
legal agreements would be allowed for any unmarried couples in Virginia.

SGN: What progress has been made by the campaign and its partners?

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Campaign Manager: The Coalition has raised more
than 1 million dollars, and brought thousands of Virginians together in an active fight
against discrimination. More than 120 businesses, individuals, civic, community and
political organizations and faith communities have officially joined The Coalition. More
than 200 lawyers have joined the Virginia Legal Review Committee and said that the
language of our amendment will have significant adverse consequences for all unmarried
Virginians. Two hundred and fifty faith leaders have signed a document opposing the
amendment for reasons of faith. Hundreds of Virginians have said that we can list them
individually as opponents of the amendment. Thousands will volunteer on election day.
Find out more about The Coalition and our partners at: www.voteNOva.org/about

SGN: Are you optimistic about your chances?

CGG: Yes, polls consistently show that informed voters are no voters. The
percentage of yeses has gone down consistently over the last year and the number of nos
has gone up. Recent polls show that when voters understand the consequences of the
amendment, the campaign is in a statistical dead heat.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

CGG: A victory on November 7th will put Virginia on the right side of history,
and -- on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement at Jamestown --
reestablish it as the life source of our democracy.

WISCONSIN
Campaign: Fair Wisconsin
The constitutional amendment would permanently deny marriage rights to
same-sex couples and foreclose the possibility of civil unions. It would also endanger
existing legal protections for all unmarried couples.

SGN: What progress has been made by the campaign and its partners?
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, Press Secretary: Over the past two years, Fair
Wisconsin has educated Wisconsinites about the ban. We've knocked on hundreds of
thousands of doors, worked with churches, trained over 1600 speakers to talk at
community events, organized on campuses, and on November 7th, we'll mobilize voters
to make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to vote no on one of these amendments.
Since we've started this campaign, we've been able to move voters to the no side and are
now within a few points of voting down the ban.

SGN: Are you optimistic about your chances?

RSN: We are very optimistic. We've had time to educate voters about the harms
of the proposed ban and now we are focusing on turning them out to the polls on
November 7th. We are going to mobilize thousands of volunteers in the biggest get out
the vote operation in the state, and we're confident that Wisconsin will vote no.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

RSN: Any last help that anyone can give to keep us on the air and fund our

GOTV operation would help us immensely. You can contribute at:
http://www.fairwisconsin.com/donate


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