Hope you enjoyed Scoop’s blogging on the US elections yesterday. Sure was fun to do. In the aftermath of the victory of Barack Obama, the passing in California of Proposition 8 that bans gay marriage ( and puts current gay civil unions in limbo) was not really a surprise. Parts of Obama’s base – let alone the theocrats on the right – always have had misgivings about gay unions.
Large swathes of the church going Hispanic and black communities, and of the white working class for instance supported the ban. For that they’re worth, exit polls in California indicated that blacks supported the ban on gay marriage two to one over Hispanics and whites. While those under 30 opposed the ban, the boomer age group (50 plus) supported it. Similar ban measures passed in Arizona and in Florida, as did a related measure in Arkansas banning adoption and fostering by gay couples.
The Proposition 8 process has been a poor advertisement for direct referenda – in that it has been an extremely costly and bitterly divisive way of removing the constitutional rights of a significant minority in California. Most estimates suggest that it cost some $74 million in total to fight this campaign – with about half the spending on the winning side reportedly being put up by the Mormon church.
The original Proposition 22 banning gay marriage in California had been struck down in May by the California courts as unconstitutional – and it was this court decision that triggered Proposition 8. This will amend the state constitution, and thus exempt the new version of the ban from future legal challenge. Legal challenges on constitutional grounds were also banned by propositions on gay marriage passed last night in Florida and in Arizona – and in Arkansas, the fostering or adoption by gar couples was also banned.
On the brighter side, South Dakota rejected ( for the second time) a proposition to ban abortion – a proposal that had been designed to trigger a subsequent challenge to Roe vs Wade in the US Supreme Court. Thanks to South Dakotans and to the three Supreme Court appointments that President Obama will make during his first term in office, the old theocratic dream of overturning Roe vs Wade is now dead. In Colorado, a proposal to define life as beginning at conception was also defeated by voters.
Marijuana made some gains. In Massachusetts, voters passed a proposal that decriminalises possession of small amounts of marijuana, and in Michigan, voters passed a proposal to extend the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. One shouldn’t shed too many tears for the defeat of the environmental propositions in California – which were widely seen even by environmentalists as being flawed, and skewed in favour of big eco-business in general, and of corporate raider T. Boone Pickens in particular. The defeat of the prison reform and rehabilitation measures in California on the other hand, is tragic.
Theoretically, the Democrats’ always unlikely dream of reaching 60 seats in the Senate is still alive, but is on life support. In Minnesota, comedian Al Franken has eked out a tiny lead over Republican Norm Coleman, but that’s headed for a recount. In Georgia, the vote for the unlovely Saxby Chambliss ( Republican) got pulled down ( late in the night) below the 50 % threshold required under Georgia law, so that one is headed for a run-off in early December.
Normally, run-offs favour the Republicans who dutifully turn out to vote – this time though, the entire Obama machine may well descend on Georgia in the first week of December.