Eye On The States: Marriage on the Ballot in MD, ME, MN and WA
November 6th is just under a month away and all eyes are on the contest to control Congress and The White House. However, throughout the country an array of important initiatives will be on the ballot this November including same-sex marriage initiatives in four states. Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington have the opportunity to join the six states who have already legalized same-sex marriage. Minnesota could very well become the first state in the nation to defeat a discriminatory marriage initiative.
The last year has seen great strides in the struggle for LGBT rights. Congress voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in May, and thethe Supreme Court may hear a case on DOMA for the first time without the Justice Department defending it. Following this many hope these ballot initiatives might prove to be a pivotal moment. The president of Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, called this year ‘a tipping point’ in the struggle for marriage equality saying, “We are committed to making sure this is the year that our opponents can no longer claim Americans will not support marriage equality at the ballot box.”
There are additional reasons to hope that this year’s ballot initiatives may see a critical success. In Maine activists have managed to create a broad network of both Democrats and Republicans to support marriage equality. In Maryland the NAACP has dedicated considerable resources to getting out the African American vote, hoping to mobilize a community previously reluctant to engage on this issue.
The Reform Movement has a long history of supporting LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. The Union for Reform Judaism first spoke out for the rights of the LGBT community in 1977, and since then has advocated for fuller inclusion of LGBT people in religious communities, hate crimes legislation and equal employment policies. In 1993 the URJ first acknowledged the need for ‘recognition for Gay and Lesbian Partnerships’ in 1997 it called for ‘civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples’ and in 2000 the Central Conference of American Rabbis approved Rabbinic officiating at same sex weddings. These ballot initiatives represent important priorities for more than just the LGBT community; they are an important step in ensuring the religious liberty and recognition of rabbis who perform LGBT weddings.
Finally, it is important for the Jewish community to remember that the laws that restrict religious organizations’ participation in elections do not apply to ballot initiatives. While each state has its own set of election laws, a religious community is welcome to take a position on an initiative (as always, check with your congregation’s lawyer if you are interested in getting involved). Jewish communities in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington have already started working and we encourage all our communities to show them their support.