Maine: 'I Don't,' Washington: 'I Do,' Ohio: 'You Bet!'
Maine voters rejected Maine's law on same-sex marriage. The law, enacted this year by Maine's legislature, would have allowed gay couples to marry, but did not force churches to perform marriage ceremonies. In a defeat for gay rights groups, 53 percent of voters said, "I don't."
Since the law passed last spring, Focus on the Family's political action committee in Maine spent $230,000 to get the referendum on the ballot and to promote its passage. Family Research Council Action (FRC) joined the fight in September, providing $41,000 for the effort.
In Wednesday's Focus on the Family broadcast, James Dobson praised Maine's voters.
"May their stand for righteousness spread throughout the rest of the country," he said, "and may we continue to see marriage preserved and protected as the sacred institution God intended it to be, between one man and one woman, committed for life."
Dobson also called on listeners to oppose efforts by President Obama and Congress to reverse the Defense of Marriage Act.
Tony Perkins of FRC also praised Maine's voters for their decision.
Same-sex marriage is not supported by most Americans, he said, and he hopes other states will follow Maine's decision.
"The institution of marriage should not be used to establish special rights for a select few at the expense of the natural family and future generations," said Perkins.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), pointed out that "every time Americans vote on marriage, traditional marriage wins." According to Wright, people reject same-sex marriage when they understand that "the true homosexual agenda … is not about equality but [about] indoctrinating children and discriminating against Christians."
Faith in Public Life (FPL), however, noted that while many religious groups opposed the Maine referendum, some "worked hard to protect the state legislature's marriage equality law." Citing polls that show support for civil unions, FPL concluded that "this issue is hardly settled."
The groups that supported the Maine referendum, however, faced a loss in Washington State, where voters approved the "All But Marriage" referendum. Based on current returns, 52 percent of Washington voters approved a bill that gives same-sex couples "the rights, responsibilities, and obligations … equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage."
Focus on the Family Action also opposed the referendum, claiming that if it passed, "Kids as young as kindergarten will begin to be taught about gay marriage, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism in public schools."
FRC Action said that "a defeat … would essentially create counterfeit marriages across the state." After the referendum, FRC's Perkins said, "The defeat is an important reminder that we need to educate people that partner benefits and special rights are just as dangerous as an outright legalization of same-sex 'marriage.'"
Finally, Ohio approved its ballot proposition allowing casinos in the state. This decision received far less attention from advocacy groups, but Focus on the Family Action opposed the initiative.
VA, NJ, and (the once unknown) NY-23
Conservative candidates won two and lost one in key races this week.
In Virginia, Republican Robert McDonnell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds by a 20-point margin. New Jersey's race was closer, but Republican Chris Christie defeated incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine 49 percent to 45 percent. Both McDonnell (an alumnus of Regent University) and Deeds were endorsed by FRC Action.
But in New York's special election for its 23rd District, the conservative candidate lost in a race that lays bare a conflict between social conservatives and big-tent Republicans. The race featured three candidates: Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican with liberal positions on same-sex marriage and abortion, Doug Hoffman, a Conservative Party candidate with conservative views, and Bill Owens, a Democrat.
Over the past few weeks, Hoffman made up significant ground in the race, picking up endorsements from Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, and other nationally known Republicans.
Days before the election, Scozzafava dropped out and endorsed Owens. FRC Action said that Scozzafava's need to drop out was not a sign of extremism in the Republican Party. Instead, the group said, "the only the thing 'extreme' about this race is how extremely hard of hearing the Republican leadership has been on upholding the party's conservative platform."
FRC Action endorsed Hoffman on October 9, saying that Scozzafava was "a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-business candidate" but that Hoffman would "fight to defend the family against the radical anti-family leadership in the House of Representatives." This week, FRC Action also aired its own radio ad supporting Hoffman. The ad asked voters to question the local Republican Party's decision to support Scozzafava instead of a "true conservative leader."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, discussed the NY-23 race on the October 31 Richard Land Live broadcast. Echoing the views of many other observers, Land said the race was about "whether we should have Republican-lite and move toward the middle or if Republicans should stand for what they believe in." Land said that a win by Hoffman would make it harder for those who want to "shift to the Left because it's a shift to the Right that has won this seat, if indeed they win it."
However, conservatives did not indeed win it, leaving conservative groups with mixed views about what happened.
Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center said that while "Democrats will try to take comfort from what happened" in New York, the wins in New Jersey and Virginia "dwarf what happened in a single district, facing quite unusual circumstances." In those states, the lesson was that "Obamaism in general—and ObamaCare in particular—can be hazardous to your political health."
Tony Perkins of FRC Action said Hoffman's loss was not due to his conservatism but to the lack of support from the Republican Party. "The blame for the loss in New York's 23rd congressional district lays squarely on the Republican Party bosses," he said. "The election results would have been very different had the party funded a candidate who actually supported the party's own platform and reflected the values of the district."
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, ignored the New York results, focusing instead on the message the polls were sending to Obama.
"The people derailed the out-of-control freight train of the liberal Washington policies and politicians," Staver said.
For left-of-center groups, the election results were a sign that social conservatives had failed. Candidates in New Jersey and Virginia were conservatives, but they focused on pragmatic issues like job creation. FPL wondered whether the Virginia or New York election pattern would hold in 2010.
"The Religious Right's role in a changing GOP hangs in the balance," according to FPL.
Jim Wallis of Sojourners said the mixed results indicate that the public is weary of "old politics" from both parties. Wallis thinks the public is tired of a money-and-power struggle in politics and is still waiting for Obama's promised "change we can believe in."
Health Care Fatigue?
If you think the debate over healthcare reform is dragging on, you are not alone. Richard Land said on October 31 that he would have stopped talking about the legislation long ago, but his listeners demand more commentary.
The Liberty Counsel agreed. "We know that this has been a long battle, but we simply cannot become 'weary in well doing.'" the group said. "We cannot let up. The other side is mustering all of their strength to push this monstrous government takeover of healthcare!"
This week, however, the House moved closer to voting on legislation. And with the House vote came more pressure from advocacy groups intended to shape the bill.
Some oppose the health care reform legislation currently being considered.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "seem determined to destroy the finest health care system in the world … [and] to raise our taxes and to punish us with fines if we don't comply with their edicts," said Traditional Values Coalition Executive Director Andrea Lafferty.
CWA sent an email to supporters [not posted on the web] saying that Speaker Pelosi "is working hard to ram her ideas down our throats despite our opposition." The group opposes what it says are increased taxes, government rationing, incentives to encourage early death, and abortion funding in the legislation.
On Tuesday, FRC Action held a webcast on health care, which included delivering 150,000 petitions to Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), and Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Faith in Public Life noted that the webcast also included Rick Scott of Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR).
"Scott and CPR are among the most prolific deceivers in the healthcare reform debate," FPL said. "Given the importance and complexity of the issue, why would FRC feature a documented dissembler in their webcast?"
FRC Action also asked that people call their representatives and demand that a pro-life amendment be voted on. The amendment is sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Republican Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.). According to The New York Times, opposition to the bill by 40 pro-life Democrats is delaying the legislation and causing the House leadership to revise it.
Rep. Brad Elsworth (D-Ind.) proposed an amendment that would strengthen the anti-funding provisions in the bill, but it was not strong enough for pro-life groups. FRC's Perkins called it a "ruse". Americans United for Life said, "The Stupak-Pitts Amendment continues to be the only language on the table in the House that will truly exclude abortion funding from health-care reform."
The House is scheduled to vote on its health care reform legislation Saturday.
Rather than focus on this week's election results and health care events, Sojourners' Wallis turned attention to Afghanistan, calling for a new approach. The United States should start with development, not continued war, he said:
"What re-builds a broken nation; inspires confidence, trust, and hope among its people; and most effectively undermines terrorism is an old and proven idea — massive humanitarian assistance and sustainable economic development."
Chuck Colson of BreakPoint also questioned the status quo on Afghanistan. "There is no doubt in my mind that when the United States invaded Afghanistan, the just war criteria was met," he said. Today, however, he is not certain of that. If the war is merely a tool of foreign policy or if the goal is bound for failure, it would be unjust. "There is clearly a moral dilemma, and no simple answers," said Colson. He concluded that the best course of action is to pray for President Obama and for a "just peace."
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Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers include:
Health Care Cacophony | Plus: D.C. debates gay marriage, President Obama approves a new hate crimes law, and other issues advocacy groups were talking about this week. (Oct. 30, 2009)
Dobson: 'It's Coming Apart' | Conservative groups focus on Kevin Jennings, Chai Feldblum, and gay-rights legislation. (Oct. 23, 2009)
Peace, Peace—But Is There Peace? | What Christian political groups said this week about the Nobel Prize, immigration reform, the hate crimes bill, and other issues. (October 16, 2009)
A Czar, a Cross, and Prayer Chain for Liberals | Conservative groups take aim at safe schools 'czar' Kevin Jennings. The Supreme Court considers the fate of a cross in the Mojave Desert. And all while Congress continues to work on health care. (October 9, 2009)
The Baucus Ruckus | This week the debate over health care reform moved from broad platitudes to specifics on abortion funding and abstinence education. (October 2, 2009)
Two Summits, Countless Agendas | Faith Leaders Summit urges G-8 to focus on poverty while Values Voter Summit targets domestic issues. (September 25, 2009)
Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.