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ELECTION 08: 2 years after loss, Ariz. considers marriage amendment again

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories focusing on the election that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.

PHOENIX (BP)–Two years after Arizona became the first state to defeat a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot, voters there will get another chance Nov. 4 to pass such a proposal, and supporters are far more confident this go-round.

The 2006 amendment lost 52-48 percent, making Arizona the first and only state thus far — 27 states have passed them — to turn down an amendment protecting the natural definition of marriage. The defeat left pro-family leaders statewide and nationwide wondering what happened. Their conclusion? The debate — despite attempts by supporters — focused not on “gay marriage” but on side issues: Opponents ran a television ad claiming the amendment would limit Social Security income for seniors and take away medical insurance of the children of domestic partners. The tactic worked, with 46 percent of those ages 60 and over — normally a strong supporter of marriage amendments — voting against the proposal. Supporters tried to convince the public that the amendment simply was designed to ban “gay marriage” and same-sex civil unions, but failed.

This time, the amendment — and the debate on it — is much simpler. Proposition 102, as it is called, seeks only to protect the natural definition of marriage, and leaves the debate over civil unions for another day.

The issue of “gay marriage” is front and center.

“This year, Proposition 102 is not about benefits,” Michele Baer, spokeswoman for YesforMarriage.com, the main group supporting the amendment, told Baptist Press. “That’s one concern that a lot of people have. This proposition does one thing and one thing only — it simply defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It’s pretty hard to construe anything else in there, because it’s simple, clear and 20 words.”

The proposed amendment — placed on the ballot by the legislature — is short enough that it is featured prominently on the front page of YesforMarriage.com. It states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” The amendment’s simplicity — and perhaps a desire to make up for the 2006 loss — has helped Proposition 22 supporters gain a healthy fundraising lead. Through Sept. 22, YesforMarriage.com had raised $6.9 million, opponents only about $400,000.

The fact that Arizona borders California — a state that saw its Supreme Court legalize “gay marriage” — certainly hasn’t hurt supporters’ warnings about activist judges.

“We are receiving an overwhelming amount of support from people of all walks of life — different political persuasions, ethnic backgrounds and religions are all standing up to stay yes on Proposition 102, because it’s so simple and clear,” Baer said. “Amending the Arizona constitution by voting yes on Proposition 102 is the only way that Arizonans can prevent judges or politicians from overturning the voice of the people regarding marriage in the states. There really is an important urgency to passing this. Look at what happened in California.”

The amendment led 49-42 percent in a Sept. 30 poll of 976 registered voters conducted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and KAET-TV.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about the Arizona marriage amendment, or to learn how you can help it pass, visit YesforMarriage.com.

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  • Michael Foust