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Election 2009: Voters Tackle Casinos, Gay Marriage

Voters in six states will decide Tuesday on a range of hot-button issues, from same-sex marriage and medical marijuana laws to borrowing funds for open space.

In Maine and Washington state, voters will decide whether to extend marriage rights to gay men and lesbians.

A ballot measure in Maine would repeal a gay-marriage law passed last spring by the state Legislature. If it fails, it will be the first time a state referendum supported gay marriage, says Frank Schubert, a strategist working to pass the measure, known as Question 1.

"Gay marriage has never been approved in a ballot anywhere in the country," Schubert says.

Mark Sullivan, spokesman for NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality, said Question 1 goes against "the right of same-sex couples to get married."

"It's a matter of fairness and equality under the law," he says.

In Washington, Referendum 71, would give same-sex partners and unmarried seniors who live together the same rights as married couples with the caveat "that a domestic partnership is not a marriage."

Elsewhere, ballot measures cover medical marijuana, gambling and new borrowing. Tuesday's list of 26 ballot measures in Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington is the second-shortest in a decade, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2003, 22 measures were fielded on statewide ballots.

Ohioans will vote a fifth time since 1990 on whether to allow casinos to operate in the state. All previous measures had failed. Tuesday's ballot measure would allow one casino in each corner of the state and require casinos to pay 33 percent tax on receipts.

Voters in Maine, New Jersey and Ohio will vote on $671 million in new bonds, according to the legislatures conference.

The largest bond measure is in New Jersey, where voters are being asked to support a $400 million bond to preserve open space, farmland, historic and natural resources.

Maine voters will decide whether to include more medical conditions that would qualify patients to buy marijuana. The law would also allow nonprofit marijuana dispensaries to distribute pot to qualified patients.

The Maine Chiefs of Police Association recently voted 32-0 to oppose it, Executive Director Robert Schwartz told the Associated Press. Law officers worried that the referendum would not set strict limits on who could dispense marijuana and where, Schwartz said.

Maine's medical marijuana law was passed by referendum in 1999 but failed to set up a system for qualified patients to obtain the drug, said Jonathan Leavitt, coordinator for Maine Citizens for Patients' Rights.

1 Responses »

  1. I consider it to be most unfortunate that an issue involving the fundamental rights of a minority (the right to marry has long been deemed by the US Supreme Court to be a fundamental right (Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978))) should ever be placed on a ballot, for ratification by the people. This is particularly important when the issue at stake involves the fundamental rights of a relatively small minority (the best estimates regarding the size of the gay population range from between 2% to 10% of the general poopulation). We all saw what happened in California when Proposition 8 was put to the people -- the adoption of this state constitutional amendment had the effect of eliminating gay marriage in that state...

    The Catholic Church -- specifically, the Catholic Diocese of Portland -- has pumped another $152,600.00 into the State of Maine in its attempts to repeal the new gay marriage statute. Other bishops and dioceses have contributed an estimated $214,000.00 to the repeal effort. Whetever became of the legal requirement that a religious organization not engage in political advocacy if that organization is to retain its tax-exempt status?

    I consider Maggie Gallagher -- President of the misnamed "National Organization for Marriage" (NOW) -- to be the embodiment of pure evil. Any person who tries to rip apart the marriages of other people is, in my opinion, a very cruel, spiteful, and ugly human being.

    It is my sincere hope that the people of the State of Maine see through this ham-fisted attempt at gay-bashing, and that they vote to retain the Maine gay marriage statute when they cast their votes tomorrow...

    PHILIP CHANDLER