Anti-Gay Marriage Amendments Pass in 11 States

November 03, 2004

Mean-Spirited, Ugly Measures Will Hurt Thousands of Gay and Straight Families

Oregon Results Show Marriage Contests Can Be Won

Results Show Marriage Amendments Did Not Generate Significant Votes for Bush in Key Battleground States

Marriage Issue Appears to Have No Impact on African American Support for Democratic Ticket

Visit the Task Force Election Center for a number of new documents about election 2004.

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

NEW YORK, November 3, 2004 (11:00am) — Returns indicate state constitutional amendments seeking to ban same-sex marriage will pass in all eleven states where the question was on the ballot. (In eight of the 11 contests, the measures also seek to ban other, more limited forms of partner recognition, including civil unions and domestic partnerships.) The margins of defeat ranged from 86% to 14% in Mississippi to 57% to 43% in Oregon.

"The results underscore why we have a Bill of Rights - because it is always wrong to put basic rights up to a popular vote. In fact, even today, 213 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, it is doubtful Americans could win our freedoms of speech, press and religion at the ballot box," said Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the "Task Force"). "In the end, we know the Bill of Rights will guarantee every American the freedom to marry. For now, we'll dig in and fight harder - we've been fighting the forces of intolerance for decades and have made enormous progress against enormous odds.

"Last night, marriage equality took a right hook to the chin and tens of thousands of families will be hurt, but it's certainly not a knockout - in fact, our community is emerging stronger than ever before in many states," Foreman continued. "This is only one round and when the fight is over, complete equality for gay people will be the only side left standing."

Oregon - the only state that had anything close to the amount of money needed to run a competitive race - came closest to defeating its amendment. When the Oregon campaign started, polls said the amendment would carry by 27 points, meaning that the effort to defeat the amendment moved the electorate by 17 points in less than three months. It was the only campaign to show a significant movement in the electorate during the course of the campaign.

The next closest contest was Michigan, where the amendment was adopted 59% to 41%. The Oregon amendment garnered only 41% of the vote in the Multnomah County, the state's most populous, but the results were not enough to offset pro-amendment margins in rural counties. In Oregon, the No on Amendment 36 campaign raised and spent $2.8 million, three times more than any other state. The Task Force contributed over $900,000 to the effort and was the campaign's largest donor. (A more detailed discussion of the Oregon campaign is below.)

"The Oregon results clearly show that we can move hearts and votes when we have the resources to reach voters and speak to them directly about marriage and why it matters to gay people," said Foreman.

"Even though amendments passed, our community is coming out stronger in many states - these campaigns educated millions of voters about the gay families, identified tens of thousands of pro-gay voters, brought in thousands of new donors, built unprecedented alliances with labor and faith communities, and energized hundreds and hundreds of new volunteers," said Foreman. "All of this is the long-term payoff because in the end, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide on marriage equality and it will base its decision on the U.S. Constitution, not anything in any of the state constitutions."

One in Five U.S. Voters Vote on Same Sex Marriage

No Impact on Bush Vote Seen

A total of 20.6 million Americans cast ballots on the anti-gay marriage amendments, or roughly one in five American voters. Overall, the measures were adopted 67% to 33%.

"There is a very bright note in all of this," Foreman said. "Every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender American who voted against an amendment was joined by at least five non-gay voters who stood with us for equal rights - that's remarkable."

Karl Rove, the President's chief political adviser, hoped to use same sex marriage to energize and turn out evangelicals to vote for the President's re-election. He believed that at least 4 million evangelicals sat out the 2000 race. Returns do not indicate this strategy worked in the three battleground states where anti-gay marriage amendments were on the ballot. For example, Sen. Kerry carried Oregon by a wider margin than Vice President Gore in 2000. In Michigan, Sen. Kerry received the same percent of the vote (51%) as Vice President Gore and increased the number of votes in the Democratic column by 227, 422. Finally, in Ohio, Sen. Kerry won at least 49% of the vote (Gore won 46%) and 199,435 more voters cast a vote in the presidential race than on the marriage amendment, indicating that the presidential race - not the marriage amendment - was the pull to the polls.

More than Two Million Gay and Heterosexual People May Be Hurt by the Amendments

Because eight of the 11 amendments go beyond marriage and seek to forbid the recognition of other forms of relationship recognition such as civil unions and domestic partnerships, thousands of gay and non-gay families may lose benefits and suffer other hardships. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, in these eight states there are at least 2.1 million people living in households headed by unmarried partnered couples. (Most of these households are headed by opposite sex couples.)

For example, the amendment in Michigan will imperil domestic partner benefits for gay and straight employees of the state's major public universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State). The same is true of domestic partner benefits of gay and straight employees of five public universities in Ohio (Ohio University, Miami University, Cleveland State, Ohio State, and Youngstown State), and those of the University of Utah. The Georgia amendment, which singles out same sex couples, threatens to end domestic partnership gay and lesbian employees of the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County and the City of Decatur. (Lambda Legal has already announced that it will challenge the validity of the amendment in court.)

"In a country in which 45 million people lack health coverage and costs are skyrocketing, the last thing we should be doing is stripping people of employer-provided health coverage," said Sean Cahill, Ph.D., the Director of the Task Force's Policy Institute, a think tank for the gay community. "Unfortunately, that's what most of these amendments do."

Returns Show Marriage Had No Impact on Black Vote

The Task Force said that the Bush/Cheney campaign's attempt to use gay marriage to wedge off African American votes from the Democratic ticket also had failed. National Election Poll data indicate that, as in 2000, nine in ten Black voters continued to support the Democratic presidential candidate. For the second election in a row, President Bush received only one in ten African American votes. In 2000 Al Gore received 90% of Black votes, while George W. Bush received a mere 9%. This year John Kerry received 89% of Black votes and Bush received 11%. (The 1% drop in support for the Democrat and the 2% increase in support for Bush are not statistically significant.

"It's clear that the Bush/Cheney strategy to press the marriage issue in the African American community in the hopes of wedging votes from the Democratic ticket failed miserably," Foreman said.

Moreover, a preliminary analysis shows that the African Americans did not vote in greater numbers than others to support the anti-gay marriage amendments. In Detroit, for example, the amendment passed 58% to 42%; statewide the results were 59% to 41%.

Oregon Comes Closest to Winning - Raising $2.8 Million - Task Force Largest Donor

In Oregon, advocates for marriage equality came closest to defeating an anti-gay marriage amendment, losing 57% to 43% (with 90% of precincts reporting). There, No on Amendment 36 raised and spent $2.8 million, with the Task Force being its largest single donor. The Task Force said it had contributed more than $900,000 to the effort, including $799,000 in cash, dedicating 12 staff members to form the backbone of the field effort, and recruiting 70 other seasoned campaign veterans to donate one to two weeks of their lives to the effort.

The leading proponents of the amendment, including the Defense of Marriage PAC, raised and spent about $2.3 million. This amount does not include the enormous resources poured into the fight by right wing churches, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon denominations.

"The results clearly show that we can move voters if we reach them and speak to them directly about marriage and why it matters to gay people," said Foreman. "A poll in early September said we would lose in Oregon by 27 points (61% to 34%). Because our side was able to run a competitive campaign, however, we came within eight points - that's an extraordinary accomplishment. Just four years ago, no one could have ever dreamed we could come so close in such a short period of time."

Multnomah County - Oregon's most populous and comprising Portland - defeated the amendment by a margin of 60% to 40%. Unfortunately, this was not sufficient to offset pro-amendment margins in the more rural parts of the state.

"The Task Force has been our campaign's most important partner," said No on Amendment 36 Campaign Manager Aisling Coghlan. "Through their direct donations and raising tens of thousands more, the Task Force was our single largest donor, by far, but just as importantly, the Task Force was also the largest contributor of skilled organizers to our campaign. Their full-time organizers began moving here in late July, and they have been indispensable helping us recruit, motivate and train our team of 5,000 volunteers."

The Oregon campaign to defeat the amendment started with a significant advantage over other states: Oregon voters have a 16-year history of voting on anti-gay ballot initiatives. Since 1988, there have been four statewide anti-gay measures, with voters defeating the last three, 1992, 1994 and 2000. The Task Force estimated that since 1992 pro-gay volunteers have had more than 500,000 one-on-one conversations with Oregon voters.

While the amount raised in Oregon was sufficient to run a competitive race, it was not exceptional. The proponents of a measure to eliminate the state-run workers' compensation company, for example, spent $6 million.

"The reality is that almost everywhere our side did not have the resources to overcome the long odds stacked against us," said Dave Fleischer, the Task Force's Director of Organizing and Training and one of the gay community's most experienced campaign managers. "Marriage is an emotional issue for many people, and we cannot expect to change minds, hearts and votes, unless we can reach and engage them. In today's world - that takes both a lot of money for media advertising as well a real field campaign."

Other States Fight Valiantly With Scarce Resources

Long-Term Gains for the Future

Spirited anti-amendment campaigns were waged in several other states and resulted in long-term gains for gay rights, the Task Force said.

Campaigns working to defeat the anti-gay marriage amendment in Ohio, Michigan and Utah each raised between $700,000 and $800,000, followed by Kentucky with $500,000. The campaigns in the other six states (Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Oklahoma) each raised less than $100,000. The Task Force contributed a total of $175,000 to help defeat the amendments in states other than Oregon.

As a general rule of thumb, it takes a minimum of $500,000 to wage a competitive race for a seat in the U.S. Congress. By this standard, none of the anti-marriage campaigns had enough money. For example, Ohio has 18 seats in Congress with five major media markets - meaning it could have used $9 million to fight the amendment.

"Even though amendments passed, our community is coming out stronger in many states - these campaigns educated millions of voters about gay families, identified tens of thousands of pro-gay voters, brought in thousands of new donors, built unprecedented alliances with labor and faith communities, and energized hundreds and hundreds of new volunteers," said Foreman. "All of this will result in a long term payoff. Marriage equality will ultimately be measured against the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution and not by anything in any of the state constitutions."

In Michigan, the overwhelming majority of newspapers in the state editorialized against the amendments. The Coalition for a Fair Michigan was able to get all the major unions in the state - including the UAW and AFL-CIO - to oppose the amendment, as well as enlist the assistance of the NAACP and faith communities all across the state. On election day, the Coalition fielded 1,000 volunteers at polling places across the state.

Activists fighting the amendment in Oklahoma organized the state's first-ever news conferences with clergy supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Kentucky's campaign, NO on the Amendment, opened seven field offices and raised $500,000 - three times more than had ever been raised for a gay organization in Kentucky. "We did things no one thought possible, including having 2500 volunteers walking door to door, making phone calls, and talking with voters about gay equality," said Sarah Reece, Campaign Manager for NO on the Amendment. "We have energized this state and engaged them in a conversation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality. We will continue to build on the progress that has been achieved and strengthened as a result of this campaign."

In Utah, the Don't Amend Alliance put up moving television advertising spots featuring Utah families talking about how the amendment would hurt members of their families.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, Issue 3, which repeals Article XII of the city's charter, passed 54 percent to 46 percent and paves the way for the Cincinnati City Council to pass a nondiscrimination law protecting the LGBT community. Task Force Deputy Executive Director Rea Carey said, "The campaign, led by Citizens to Restore Fairness, ran a smart, strong and effective campaign. They started their campaign more than a year in advance of the expected vote, they talked to voters honestly about the issue and they ran an effective ground campaign. The education of their community paid off at the polls."


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.