President George W Bush’s victory on Nov 2 may have been aided by the 11 states which had anti-same-sex marriage initiatives on the ballot.
The bans on same-sex marriage passed in all 11 states during an election that saw an increase in conservative and evangelical Christians coming out to vote.
In Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah voters were asked whether they wanted to ban gay marriages. In all 11 states, voters said yes.
In Mississippi the ban was overwhelmingly passed with 86 percent of voters casting their ballots in favour. In Oregon, where gay and lesbian activists spent millions to fight the proposal, the ban passed 57 percent to 43 percent.
One Democratic senator blamed it on San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to issue marriage certificates to gay and lesbian couples earlier this year, which provoked the rightwingers.
“I believe it did energize a very conservative vote,” says Senator Dianne Feinstein. “I think it gave them a position to rally around. I’m not casting a value judgment. I’m just saying I do believe that’s what happened…. I think that whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon… and people aren’t ready for it.”
Feinstein didn’t speculate on whether the growing number of Canadian provinces issuing same-sex marriage licences also scared US conservatives.
Still, a significant number of queer candidates were elected or reelected to different levels of political office. Ironically, in five states of the states which passed an anti-gay marriage initiative, queer candidates were also elected.
“People appear to differentiate between marriage and public service,” says Dave DeCicco of The Victory Fund, a US-based queer political action committee working to increase the number of queer politicians. “I think voters want quality elected officials and they’re more concerned with the quality of their governments than they are with the sexual orientation of their officials.”
One of the more interesting victories is that of Lupe Valdez, an openly lesbian latina woman who won her race for sheriff in Dallas County, Texas. A former special agent for Homeland Security, Valdez’s victory is seen as proof that voters are more concerned about the qualifications of their candidates, says DeCicco.