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REFERENDUMS (SECOND UPDATE) Nov-4-2004 (1,400 words) Roundup. xxxn

Ballot measures on same-sex marriage approved in 11 states

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Voters approved measures defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot Nov. 2, but rejected Catholic leaders' positions against embryonic stem-cell research funding in California and efforts to tighten the use of government benefits by immigrants in Arizona.

In Florida, a church-backed proposal allowing the Legislature to require parental notification before a minor's abortion was approved by 65 percent of the voters, but a ballot question on expanding gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- opposed by Catholic leaders -- was still too close to call early Nov. 4.

Voters in California, which led the nation with 16 of the nation's 162 initiatives in the 2004 elections, also turned down a proposal to limit the state's "three strikes" law to certain violent and/or serious felonies, which the California Catholic Conference had supported.

In Maine, a proposal to cap property taxes was soundly defeated by voters, with 37 percent in favor and 63 percent against. Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland had taken no position on the ballot measure, but reminded Catholics that "to place our own selfish interest above the needs of those less fortunate violates justice."

South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment permitting state-funded school transportation and food services for children who attend parochial and private schools, a long-standing practice in the state.

The percentage of voters approving the constitutional amendments on marriage ranged from 56 percent in Oregon to 86 percent in Mississippi.

In Michigan, where the Catholic Church had given an estimated $500,000 to the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage campaign, the amendment on same-sex marriage was approved by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin.

Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit, who was at the Vatican for meetings, said in a Nov. 3 statement that passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment "was about affirming the very fabric of our society."

"The Catholic Church stands opposed to any unjust discrimination and will continue to work for justice and equality for the rights of all people," he added.

Bishop George H. Niederauer of Salt Lake City did not endorse the proposed constitutional amendment in Utah, saying that he believed state law already prohibited same-sex marriages. He said he shared concerns voiced by all three candidates for attorney general about the amendment's stipulation that "no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage given the same or substantially equal legal effect."

The Utah proposal was approved by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.

Other states that approved amendments on same-sex marriage, with the percentages, were: Arkansas (75-25), Georgia (77-23), Kentucky (75-25), Montana (66-34), North Dakota (73-27), Ohio (62-38) and Oklahoma (76-24).

Voters in Missouri and Louisiana approved similar proposals earlier this year, although a Louisiana judge has declared that state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

California's Proposition 71, the Embryo Cloning and Stem-Cell Research Bond Act, won by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

Strongly opposed by the state's Catholic bishops but backed by scientists, entertainers, financiers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Catholic, Proposition 71 establishes a constitutional right for scientists to pursue stem-cell research and funds embryonic stem-cell research to the tune of $3 billion.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, president of the California Catholic Conference, said in a Nov. 3 statement that the bishops stood ready to "work with the administration and the Legislature to correct the defects in this proposition, and to work with others to offer comfort and care to those who will undoubtedly be disappointed when they realize that cures are not imminent and that they were given false hope."

Bishop Blaire also repeated the conference's concern that state funding would be diverted to "this speculative research" when it could be better used to provide health care insurance for the 7 million Californians without it or used for "the state's current and future civic and social welfare commitments."

Judie Brown, president of the Virginia-based American Life League, called on "all Californians who respect the dignity of every human being's life to speak out against and begin immediate steps to overturn this measure, which endorses the wholesale killing of the youngest members of the human family."

In California, the bishops also had supported Proposition 66 to revise the state's "three strikes" law, saying that "the causes of crime are complicated and simplistic sentencing solutions are not an adequate answer." The proposal failed, 47 percent to 53 percent.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said in a statement that the defeat leaves the state with a challenge "to correct the injustice" in the state's current law, which mandates a life prison term for most people convicted of three felonies.

The conference "will continue to work with others to help us realize a state criminal justice system that focuses on prevention of crime, healing of victims and rehabilitation of offenders," he said.

Catholic Charities of California had called for passage of Proposition 63, which would impose an additional 1 percent tax on personal income above $1 million to expand funding of mental health services in the state, and urged defeat of two proposals that would expand casino gambling in the state. The mental health surtax was approved, 54 percent to 46 percent, and the gambling measures were defeated.

Catholic health care leaders in the state had backed Proposition 72, which would require employers in large and medium-size companies to pay 80 percent of the cost of health insurance for their workers. The proposition failed, 49 percent to 51 percent.

Arizona's Proposition 200, which was expected to face an immediate court challenge, won by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin, despite the opposition of the Catholic bishops of Phoenix, Tucson and Gallup, N.M., whose diocese includes northeastern Arizona, and a bipartisan statewide coalition.

The measure requires anyone registering to vote to provide proof of citizenship and obliges state workers to verify that anyone seeking government benefits is not in the United States illegally.

"While Proposition 200 does nothing to control our borders or solve the complex immigration problems in our state, it will potentially make criminals out of well-meaning government workers and deny basic rights to undocumented immigrants," the bishops said before the election. "Consequently, we believe that such legislation is bad public policy."

Florida's bishops had strongly supported the state's Amendment 1, which would permit the Legislature to pass legislation requiring notification of at least one parent before a minor's abortion.

D. Michael McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, said the bishops were pleased at passage of the measure by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin.

"We were confident that once the voters could express themselves on the amendment that the rule of reasonableness would prevail," he said.

The Florida bishops had said moves to amend the state Constitution to allow slot machines in race tracks and other pari-mutuel facilities could have "long-range implications ... for the quality of life of all the citizens of our state." With 98.9 percent of precincts reporting, the vote was 50 percent in favor of the measure and 50 percent against, with fewer than 7,000 votes separating the two out of nearly 7 million ballots cast.

In Oregon, the Catholic bishops had recommended defeat of Measure 33, which would have expanded access to medical marijuana in the state. It was defeated, 42 percent to 58 percent.

In Alaska, voters soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have totally decriminalized marijuana for those 21 and older. The vote was 43 percent in favor to 57 percent against.

In a statement published before the election, Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz of Anchorage refrained from telling Catholics how to vote, but expressed apprehension about the initiative.

"Ballot Measure 2 goes far beyond current law and opens the door to drug dealers and others to grow, use and sell marijuana and hemp products in Alaska," he wrote. "I urge voters to carefully and fully inform themselves about this ballot measure prior to casting their vote."

Bishops Michael W. Warfel of Juneau and Donald J. Kettler of Fairbanks also warned their people about Ballot Measure 2 in separate letters.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Alaska since voters approved it in 1998.

- - -

Contributing to this roundup were Jacquelyn Horkan in Tallahassee, Fla., and John Roscoe in Anchorage, Alaska.


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