For Arizona, Three’s a Crowd

All eyes are on California’s battle for marriage equality, but two other states also are facing ballot initiatives this November -- and folks in John McCain’s home state are starting to feel ignored.

BY John Gallagher

August 26 2008 11:00 PM ET

Wedding Rings smaller (Getty) | Advocate.com

And yet
that’s the story the numbers tell: At press time the
California campaign to defeat Proposition 8 had raised
more than $7 million, while Florida’s effort
against Amendment 2 had brought in more than $2 million.
In Arizona? Just a few thousand dollars, according to
Barbara McCullough-Jones, executive director of
Equality Arizona, which launched the “Vote No
on Proposition 102” campaign on July 23.
McCullough-Jones says she expects to raise less than
half of the $1.9 million her group raised to fight the
initiative in 2006.

Meanwhile,
polling suggests that voters in both California and Florida
have a reasonable shot at defeating their state’s
amendments. In a Field Poll released July 18, 51% of
likely voters in California said they would vote
against Prop. 8; and while a June Quinnipiac University poll
indicated that a majority, 58%, of registered Florida voters
favor Amendment 2, that’s still shy of the 60%
that’s required to pass the antigay amendment.
(Both Florida and Arizona already have statutes that
forbid same-sex marriage, as did California before the state
supreme court struck it down on May 15;
Florida’s Amendment 2 would also ban
domestic-partnership benefits for unmarried couples.)

In Arizona,
however, marriage equality opponents seem to have the edge,
thanks in large part to their calculated decision to drop
the domestic-partnership issue from the measure.
“In 2006 people [opposed gay marriage] by about
65% to 35%, but they didn’t want to deny benefits to
domestic partners,” says longtime Arizona pollster
Bruce D. Merrill, adding that polls today show that
60% of likely Arizona voters still favor limiting
marriage to heterosexual couples. So even if Equality
Arizona could afford to blanket the state with
anti–Prop. 102 ads, Merrill says the group
would still face an uphill battle.

But to national
gay rights leaders, the stakes are highest in the Golden
State. Evan Wolfson, executive director of the New York
City–based Freedom to Marry, compares the
battle in California to Gettysburg. Although the Civil
War didn’t end with that bloody showdown, it was the
“turning point,” he says. “When we
[permanently] hold the freedom to marry [in
California], the arc of our movement will be dramatically
changed, and everything else we’re fighting for will
be that much more attainable -- that much
sooner.”

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