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Texas becomes 19th state with marriage amend.; parental notification loses in Calif.

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional marriage amendment Nov. 8, but Maine citizens voted to keep a new “gay rights” law and Californians rejected a proposal requiring teens to notify a parent before getting an abortion.

The vote in Texas made it the 19th state to adopt a constitutional marriage amendment, and it passed with ease, winning by a margin of 76-24 percent. Homosexual activists had poured their resources into the state, hoping to pull a stunning upset in a very conservative area of the country. The amendment protects the natural definition of marriage, banning both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions. A marriage amendment has never lost at the ballot.

But homosexual activists won in Maine, defeating a proposal that would have overturned a “sexual orientation” law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. With 87 percent of the vote counted, the “people’s veto” was losing by a margin of 55-45 percent. The new law gives homosexuality civil rights status by placing “sexual orientation” alongside age, religion, race and other classes in state law, preventing discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations.

Pro-lifers lost in California, where a parental notification proposal was defeated by a 53-47 percent margin. Known as Proposition 73, it would have amended the state constitution to require teenage girls to notify at least one parent before getting an abortion. If the parent did not consent, the girl would have had to wait 48 hours. More than 30 states have similar laws.

The Texas marriage amendment, known as Proposition 2, passed despite fierce opposition by liberal groups. One anti-amendment group, Save Texas Marriage, claimed that the amendment would invalidate all marriages in the state — a claim that the state attorney general called “wholly without merit.” The group reportedly made 2 million automated phone calls, urging a no vote. Another anti-amendment group, No Nonsense in November, used the slogan “Families Matter” while encouraging a no vote. Some conservative voters said the slogan was misleading.

The mayor of Austin, Texas, along with 21 other elected leaders, held a news conference in mid-October opposing the amendment. In addition, the editorial boards of nearly every major newspaper came out against Proposition 2.

Yet Michael Lewis, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, called the approval of Proposition 2 a “great victory.”

“It just shows the grassroots voice that is still embracing moral values and traditional families,” he told Baptist Press.

An outspoken supporter of the amendment, Lewis said his e-mail was full of hate mail the morning after the election.

Although Texas already had a law banning “gay marriage,” the amendment prevents state courts from overturning the law — something that has happened in other states such as Massachusetts. That state did not have a marriage amendment and saw its highest court strike down state law and legalize “gay marriage.”

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the conservative Free Market Foundation, said the margin of victory was particularly significant in light of the opposition faced.

“You had media stories out there that were basically carrying the water for people that were lying about the effects of Proposition 2,” he said. “… You had all these editorials that were relying upon misinformation.”

Homosexual activists refused, Sasser said, to debate whether “gay marriage” should be legalized.

“Instead, they tried to trick people and deceive people with misinformation in order to try and get them to vote a different way,” he said, adding that the Free Market Foundation “received an enormous amount of phone calls” from people who said they voted against Proposition 2, thinking that a no vote was a vote against “gay marriage.”

Of the 19 states that have adopted marriage amendments, 12 have done so by at least 70 percent of the vote. Only two — Michigan with 59 percent and Oregon with 57 percent — have been approved with less than 60 percent of the vote.

Maine voters had rejected similar “sexual orientation” laws twice before — in 1998 and 2000. But since that most recent vote, several of its neighbors had begun granting marriage benefits to homosexuals. Canada and Massachusetts legalized “gay marriage,” while Connecticut legalized same-sex civil unions. The mood in Maine apparently has changed.

“Homosexual activists poured in resources from out of state, engaged in smear tactics and were aided by a media that routinely engaged in character assassination,” Robert Knight director of Concerned Women for America’s Culture & Family Institute, said in a statement. “The pro-family people were outspent by more than 10 to 1, saw hundreds of yard signs ripped up, and generally were under siege. But having fought the good fight and done all they could, they can hold their heads high.

“This setback means that Mainers must gird themselves for the next assault, which will be on marriage. Homosexual activists hope to force the Pine Tree State to issue counterfeit marriage licenses like Massachusetts is already doing.”

The vote in California on parental notification was expected to be close, and it was. Although Proposition 73 led in early results, by the end of the night it was losing. The vote reflected an urban-rural split, with most of the cities along the coast opposing it, and most of the counties in the middle and eastern part of the state supporting it.

Ron Prentice, director of the conservative California Family Council, said opponents succeeded in making voters focus less on parents’ rights and more on instances when a teenage girl may come from an abusive home and fear telling her parents she’s pregnant. Proposition 73 had a judicial bypass for such instances. He also said conservatives did not go to the polls in the same numbers that liberals did. Proposition 73 was on the ballot alongside several proposals backed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that had energized Democrats. All of the proposals lost.

“In hindsight, knowing that the governor was outspent by more than 3-to-1, we recognize that the conservative voter was not as present as we would have hoped,” said Prentice, who said the proposal would have had a better chance of passing during a general election alongside statewide races.

Prentice added he believes conservatives will try again to pass parental notification. It was placed on the ballot through the petition process.

In other election news:

— In Dover, Pa., voters ousted eight Republican school board members who had supported introducing high school students to Intelligent Design, according to the Associated Press. Democrats who opposed the teaching of Intelligent Design won all eight seats. The school district is in the midst of a federal court battle over the teaching of Intelligent Design.

— Voters in two Arkansas cities approved gambling expansion at racetracks, according to a report in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. In West Memphis, 64 percent of the vote favored a referendum to add electronic “games of skill” at Southland Greyhound Park. Voters in Hot Springs passed the same measure by less than 100 votes, 4,745-4,656, for Oaklawn Park, a thoroughbred track.

The West Memphis track hopes to use the new gambling machines to cut some of the huge losses in revenue it has seen since casinos were established in nearby Tunica, Miss., about 15 years ago.

“Games of skill” include a form of video poker, electronic checkers and “re-spin” slot machines, the Commercial Appeal reported.

The Arkansas legislature earlier this year passed a bill permitting the tracks to add such games if voters in the two cities also approved it.

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  • Michael Foust