Tag Archives: gay marriage

When a Democracy Goes Wrong

By: Heather Ellerbrock

The other day while driving in the car with my dad, he told me a story about a 16 year old who upon exiting the highway way to fast, hit a bump and proceeded to flip his car in the air over two lanes of traffic landing on a hill hundreds of feet away from where this all started. We then got into a conversation about how parents, teachers, etc. in response to such reckless driving from teenagers immediately provide a solution of raising the driving age instead if attacking the problem head on (i.e. require drivers ed for all and at least 1 year, from 15-16, of driving with a permit and so on). Then I saw this video made by Protect Families (the group responsible for Prop. 8 in California):

Despite the fact that I think this video is pure propaganda, just like the adults who believe the solution to reckless teenage driving is to raise the driving age, these parents believe banning gay marriage is the solution to ensure their young children are not taught it in school (instead of coming to a consensus with the school board and community, etc that waiting until sex ed to introduce the idea of homosexual marriage is a better idea…as, in the video, the parents themselves say). On a side note, notice these parents say that because gay marriage is legal and they disagree with it, it is only now they are bigots; and how can you teach gay marriage in mathematics?

Moving on…

After the conversation with my dad, and after viewing the video, I looked to a New York Times Article titled, “Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage” and this got me thinking. How can a democracy be the best answer when special interest groups are able to impose their views on an out-group in a totalitarian way? Now, I am in no way suggesting I do not believe in democracy. I am simply stating that it has become too easy for 48% to become an unrepresented minority. Furthermore, through the simplicities of putting  measures on ballots that represent special interests – in this case gay marriage – the line between church and state is becoming more and more gray each passing year. In reference to Prop. 8, a member who was part of the fund raising for the propositions passing had the following to say: “I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved.” Many will argue that if gay marriage was the majority, there would still be a ~48% minority that would disapprove of the measure. I say to them that at least they can marry the person they love.

So now, after talking to my dad, seeing the “Protect Families” video and realizing that the main reason Prop. 8 did not pass was in most part because of one special interest group, I then looked to Colorado who in the 2008 election actually tried to address this problem; at least when it came to constitutional initiatives (remember, in 2006 gay marriage was banned in Colorado). As most of you may recall, on Colorado’s ballot this year we had Ref. O which aimed to “make it harder” for constitutional initiatives to make it on the ballot. This would have included (1) a signature requirement amount equal to 6% of votes cast for most recent governor and (2) 8% of all signatures to be collected from each congressional district. Once again, and in a way that can only be seen a sheer irony, the minority that Ref. O was trying to protect lost by 48-52%.

In my opinion and judgment, this all boils down to religion. Now let me preface this with saying I am not attacking religion. I am saying that when it comes to issues that appear on ballots each year concerning gay marriage, abortion, etc., these measures are able to appear on the ballot from fund raising that mainly comes from religious institutions. And since they are not required (at least in Colorado) to gain signatures from all congregational districts, they can then pick and choose where they will most likely get signatures for the measure. Think about Amendment 48, it failed famously but was able to appear on the ballot. 1/6 of all Amendment 48’s “Yes” vote came from El Paso county alone (compare with 1/15 total of “Yes” votes coming from Denver). I wonder where the people who wanted the measure on the ballot focused their efforts?

A democracy goes wrong when we are able to put amendments on constitutions that take away rights from people. Instead of attacking the problem from the inside out and coming to a consensus, a small majority gets to define what life will be for other Americans. Just as most are irrational to think that raising the driving age to 18 will cure reckless “teenage” driving, the same people are just as irrational to think that denying rights to deserving American citizens is their right in our democracy.

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Filed under American Electorate, Colorado, Religion, Uncategorized

The Wedge Issue – R.I.P?

By: Brian Bohnert

Largely buried in the furor of the historic nature of the presidential election, our old electoral friend “the wedge issue” has not disappeared completely.  Used to great effect in the 2000, and 2004 elections by Rove and the RNC to get voters to the polls (although, it should be noted that there is not much statistical evidence for the actual success of said strategy), wedge issues have worked their way onto ballots around the country for the 2008 election.  What exactly defines a wedge issue in terms of ballot politics?  From the name, we can assume that these are issues designed to create division within the electorate and to play upon fears – many times unfounded.  Almost exclusively social issues, these debates many times turn irrational and play to the lowest common denominator of humanity.  This video explains further:

However, these are not necessarily issues that should be taken lightly or brushed aside by political observers as they have the potential to mobilize large numbers of voters to volunteer in campaigns and to get to the polls on election day.  While Colorado has its fair share of wedge issues on the ballot (48, 46), lets take a look at some of the other issues that are showing up on the ballot for voters do decide on tomorrow.

Wedge issue #1) – Same sex marriage – a question pertaining to this shows up on ballots in Arizona (Prop. 102) Arkansas (Initiative 1), California (Prop. 8)  and Florida (Am. 2).  Each one of these addresses a different facet of the the same sex debate that is taking place in states across the country.  The Arizona measure is similar to one that failed in 2006 that would make it constitutionally illegal for gay couples to marry.  It is already illegal by way of statute, which is why this failed in 2006 and will most likely again fail in 2008.  The Arkansas measure makes it illegal for “cohabiting couples outside of a valid marriage” to adopt kids (because I suppose an overcrowded orphanage is much better for their overall psychological development), the Florida question bans same-sex marriage, and California’s measure seeks to reverse a  Supreme Court decision last year that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. – something that had Ellen dancing, and Bill O pontificating.

While each of these scream “GET TO THE POLLS YOU EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS!!!” it is clear that this voting block does not hold the sway it once did a few short years ago.  While this continues to be at the top of the list for James Dobson and his loyal followers,grand_ayatollah_james_dobson  America as a whole has largely moved on from the issue to more pressing things, like real issues that actually matter.

Wedge Issue #2 – Abortion –  This issue shows up on the Colorado ballot (Am 48 – definition of personhood), the South Dakota ballot (Init. 11) and the California ballot (Prop 4 – parental notification).  The most aggressive attack on reproductive rights comes from the South Dakota measure that would ban all abortions except in the case of rape and health of the mother, put doctors in jail and is clearly desinged to overturn Roe v. Wade.  While the voters of SD have previously voted to turn down such restrictive laws, all eyes will be focused on the outcome of this election as polling predicts that it has a good chance of passing.  This of course, makes the presidential election all that more important as the next commander-in-chief will determine the make up of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.

Wedge Issues # 3-7 – immigration, stem cell research, affirmative action, marijuana, assisted suicide –  While the bulk of the ballot debate has focused on abortion and same-sex marriage, other states will be deciding about these other popular wedge issues.  Arizona makes it illegal to hire immigrants that are undocumented, Michigan voters will decide if stem cell research is allowed and if marijuana can be legal for medicinal use, and Washington state will continue its battle over doctor assisted suicide or “right to die” debate that has been going on for the past eight years.  

While each one of these alone does not determine national policy, the test cases that each of these represent have broader implications for future laws.  While most political pundits have large Democratic wins across the nation, one can wonder if that will translate into decisive victories on these ballot initiatives as well (you can track the results here). If the original intention was to get these on the ballot so conservative voters will come to the polls, it might have backfired.  In other words, what would be more debilitating to “pro-life” advocates if Am 48 in Colorado and Initiative 11 in South Dakota lose by substantial margins?  What if Democratic voters come out in droves to vote for Barack Obama and while in the booth vote to keep gay marriage legal in California and allow gay couples to adopt in Arkansas?  Whatever the results, wedge issues will never completely disappear, but hopefully using them solely for political gain at the polls will be a thing of the past.

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Filed under Negative Campaigning