OMAHA, Neb. (BP)–Voters in Nebraska and Nevada took a stand for traditional family values and overwhelmingly passed legislation banning same-sex unions Nov. 7. Meanwhile, in Maine, voters appear to have defeated a referendum banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Nebraskans voted by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio in favor of the Defense of Marriage Amendment, also called Initiative 416. The measure says same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships are not valid in Nebraska.
Supporters cheered Tuesday’s vote, saying the amendment will protect Nebraska from being forced to accept gay marriage or marriage-like unions that another state might approve.
Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to legally sanction same-sex unions.
“Nebraskans have spoken their minds,” said Bill Ramsey, co-chairman of the Nebraska Coalition for the Protection of Marriage in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald.
The amendment drew support from Catholic and Mormon churches, a group of black ministers, and Family First, the Nebraska affiliate of Focus on the Family.
Opponents of the amendment, including the American Civil Liberties Union, contended Initiative 416 is unconstitutional.
“Many of my board members see this as a basic issue of civil liberties,” said Tim Butz, executive director of ACLU Nebraska.
Supporters said they are confident it is constitutional and will withstand an appeal.
“The Bible is plain and clear on homosexuality — it’s a sin,” said Joan Meradith, a supporter of the amendment. “I think it’s good that we’re getting ahead of the curve in the country. If Nebraska didn’t pass this, we might be forced to recognize gay marriages from other states.”
In Nevada, voters approved a similar measure. Opponents of the Coalition for the Protect of Marriage conceded defeat before the polls opened Tuesday. Official numbers were not available at press time.
The coalition gathered 120,000 signatures to get the marriage issue on the Nevada ballot, arguing that tough constitutional protections are needed to make sure the state is not forced to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.
The coalition raised more than $700,000 and launched an aggressive television and radio campaign in the weeks before the election.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religion Liberty Commission, said he is encouraged by the Nebraska and Nevada votes. “This is clearly not good news for homosexual activists, as the voters in these states have rejected a major plank in the homosexual agenda,” Land said.
In Maine, voters appeared to defeat a referendum banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. With 87 percent of the precincts reporting at press time, the measure was failing 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent.
The vote was the third statewide vote on homosexual rights in Maine and the state’s religious community is credited with defeating the measure.
At a September fund-raiser in Portland, Maine, television evangelist Jerry Falwell said passage of the referendum would be the “slippery slope” leading to same-sex marriages.
The theme of the Maine campaign became, “Maine is not Vermont.”
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, under fire for supporting homosexual rights in that state, won re-election Tuesday over a challenger opposed to the new law creating civil unions for same-sex couples.
Supporters of the “Take Back Vermont” movement, including Republican candidate Ruth Dwyer, had hoped to send a message to Dean for his support of homosexual marriages.
Vermont Director of Missions Jim Wideman told Baptist Press he was disappointed in the governor’s re-election.
“We were soundly defeated in the governor’s race, but we won some races in the [state] House and Senate,” Wideman said. “Still, I think people heard our message about same-sex unions.”
Despite the loss of the governor’s race, Wideman said there was some good news from Vermont. “The Republicans have won control of the House which basically means there is a better chance to get a pro-family agenda through,” he said.
Said Land, “The wonderful thing about representative government is that the people’s representatives are accountable to the people. Clearly in Vermont, many people were not happy with the legislators’ decision to pass a law providing for same-sex unions.”
Wideman credited the state’s Southern Baptist churches with helping get out the vote. “There are less than 1,000 Southern Baptists here. Our churches are very small,” he said. “But they were actively involved in taking a stand for traditional family values.”