EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the fifth story in a five-part series examining state marriage amendment initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Marriage Digest, which normally appears in Friday’s Baptist Press, will return Nov. 5.
BISMARCK, N.D. (BP)–North Dakota is anything but a bastion of liberalism. In fact, it hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1964.
So, why is a constitutional marriage amendment needed there? The answer is simple, pro-family leaders say.
“It’s needed in North Dakota for the same reason that it’s needed everywhere else in the nation — because marriage has come under assault, and quite frankly, the courts are posing the biggest challenges right now,” Christina Rondeau, executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance, told Baptist Press.
“It’s no secret to anyone that what is happening to other individual states is definitely going to have an impact on our state.”
North Dakota is one of 11 states that will vote Nov. 2 on constitutional amendments that protect the traditional definition of marriage, thus banning same-sex “marriage.” Four of those are western states that tend to trend conservative — North Dakota, Oklahoma, Montana and Utah. And while those four states are expected to pass the amendments, polls in all four have shown support below 60 percent — surprising considering that Louisiana and Missouri passed amendments this year with more than 70 percent support.
— In North Dakota, an Oct. 23 Forum/WDAY-TV poll of likely voters showed the amendment winning by a margin of 52-36 percent.
— In Montana, an October Billings Gazette State Poll showed the amendment there favored by a margin of 59-34 percent.
— In Utah, the amendment there is favored by a margin of 59-33 percent, according to an Oct. 29 Salt Lake Tribune poll of registered voters.
— In Oklahoma, an Oct. 12 KWTV-TV poll showed that state’s amendment supported by 59 percent of registered voters.
“As a general rule North Dakotans tend to view themselves as very conservative,” Rondeau said. “My experience has really tended to reveal what I would consider more of a libertarian conservative mentality.”
Turnout is key in North Dakota, she said.
The effort in North Dakota to put a marriage amendment on the ballot began when several Canadian provinces began legalizing same-sex “marriage.” The fact that Massachusetts legalized it in May — thanks to a ruling by that state’s high court — “added a lot of fuel to the fire,” Rondeau said. Manitoba, a province that borders North Dakota, legalized same-sex “marriage” in September.
“What happened with Canada definitely concerned a lot of North Dakotans,” she said. “There are a lot of people here who travel back and forth.”
While the various state amendments aren’t foolproof — they can be overturned in federal court — they do nonetheless provide protection within the state by preventing state courts from issuing pro-same-sex “marriage” decisions.
To put the amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot, the North Dakota Family Alliance had to gather 25,000 signatures — not an easy task in a state with 600,000 people. They passed their goal with ease and finished with 42,000.
“We did expect to get [the amount] we needed,” Rondeau said. “[But] we were amazed at the incredible response of people. We knew there was a lot of support. We just didn’t know how much of it we could tap into in the six weeks’ time we had to collect the signatures.”
The signatures were collected in churches and by people on the streets. Also, many people downloaded the petition online and mailed it in.
“It was a grassroots campaign,” Rondeau said. “A lot of it was just through word of mouth.”
Now, Rondeau hopes that grassroots campaign results in a victory on Election Day.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage