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 Marriage on
the Mind

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Gay marriage is on everyone's mind in the week leading up to the presidential election.

Not surprisingly, the papers are obsessed with the issue. While it's been expected that Californian publications would lean heavily on the topic, as the state's Proposition 8 hangs in the balance, it's surprising to see what one newspaper in a conservative area has been writing.

TheSalt Lake Tribune, the paper of record in the Mormon state's capital, weighed in 15 times on the issue. One columnist, Robert Kirby, who is Mormon, said "I Don't Care If Gays Get Married" in a piece meant to satirize against Prop. 8: "Shouldn't it be against the law for stupid people to get married? What's more harmful to society -- two well-dressed men getting married and settling down, or two idiots tying the knot and cranking out any number of additional idiots?"

The Salt Lake City paper also republished an editorial from the Los Angeles Times in its Opinion section, pointing out that the fear-based ads pushing the idea that teachers would suddenly be required to teach gay marriage in the classroom is an outright lie, and that they are already within their rights to use their judgment in using classroom materials.

The Times wrote: "It would be naive to say that no California teacher will ever mention homosexuality, or that SB 71 prevents all teachers, elementary or otherwise, from reading 'King and King' or similar books to their students, or telling them about the history -- and existence -- of gay marriage. Schools across the nation have done such things for years, with or without legal recognition of gay marriage."

Another Salt Lake Tribune article reported the last-minute withdrawal of Utah-based Mormon volunteers for the California initiative: "The church has since determined that such phone calls are best handled by those who are registered California voters." You think?

A third Tribune story, "Prop 8: California Gay Marriage Fight Divides LDS Faithful," noted that members of the church who are against Prop. 8 feel like they are pariahs in their community. One woman, Carol Oldman, even avoids going to services.

"It has tainted everything for me," Oldham said, who was choking up during her telephone interview with the Tribune. "I am afraid to go there and hear people say mean things about gay people. I am in mourning. I don't know how long I can last."

In the swing states, gay marriage is getting a lot of attention. Florida Today of Brevard County ran five gay marriage pieces; the state has an anti-gay marriage bill on the ballots, Amendment 2. Like the Prop. 8 proponents, the Florida anti-gay marriage movement is relying on the false notion that schools will be teaching children about gay marriage. [Payment is required to access this site's archives.]

TheMiami Herald had several marriage pieces -- one had a poll showing the state's gay marriage ban "just short of passing," with 56% of respondents in favor. Amendment 2 requires a 60% "yes" vote to become a state constitutional amendment.

Another Herald story examined a point made by opponents of Florida's antigay ballot initiative: Amendment 2 could actually endanger straight domestic partnerships in addition to banning gay partnerships. "They point to particular wording in the amendment that they say could lead to unmarried couples -- gay and straight -- losing hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions, and domestic partner health benefits provided by employers."

A Herald columnist put human faces to this problem in " Amendment 2 Is a Threat to Unwed Senior Couples": He interviewed several longtime unmarried heterosexual couples -- some together 25 or 30 years -- whom the amendment would apparently affect.

In Ohio, a story in TheCincinnati Enquirer, about Barack Obama's on-the-ground grassroots organization there, reported how things have changed from 2004, when President Bush pulled out a win thanks to the state's conservative voters: "Many Republican strategists have credited that to the presence of the ballot issue banning gay marriage in Ohio. It stirred up the hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christian voters in southwest Ohio like nothing else ever. And polls showed that three of every four of them voted for Bush."

The article also pointed out that while there's no gay marriage initiative in Ohio this year, John McCain has an evangelical calling card in Sarah Palin, not to mention the deep organization of churchgoers throughout the state.

Ohio group Citizens for Community Values has "printed up hundreds of thousands of fliers on its Ohio Election Central project -- fliers that can be stuffed easily into a Sunday church bulletin -- and distributed them to evangelical Christian churches all over Ohio," according to the Enquirer story, "along with a three-minute video asking churchgoers to go to the CCV Web site -- www.ohioelectioncentral.com -- for nonpartisan, side-by-side comparisons of the candidates' positions on abortion, immigration, marriage, gambling and other issues important to social conservatives."

Considering that Bush won by "a scant 118,601" votes statewide four years ago, Ohio is still very much in play.

Nationally, the news came out that the big Mormon donor to Prop. 8 is Alan Ashton of Lindon, Utah. He donated a cool $1 million to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Also big news in terms of publicity if not monetarily is the $15,000 donation to the Yes on Prop 8 by Jeff Kent of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Interestingly, he's quite familiar with liberal cities: He's a resident of Austin, Texas; became a star with the San Francisco Giants; and is an alum of the University of California, Berkeley.)

As for Arizona, the Associated Press examined how anti-gay marriage proponents there feel a 2006 election failure helped them this year. Two years ago they couldn't pass a state constitutional amendment that would have extended banned unions to unmarried straight couples and domestic partners. Its 2008 counterpart, Proposition 102, is clearly worded: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."

From the article: " 'The simplicity of the amendment is what's going to help it pass,' said Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the backers of the anti-gay marriage measure." The story cited a statewide poll of McCain's home state that shows 49% for the bill, 42% against, and 9% still undecided.

More on Prop. 8: USA Todaycame out against it and other anti-gay marriage bills, chiding the backers' "scare tactics" and proclaiming that California's Yes on 8 ads are worse "fear-mongering" than any ads propagated by either presidential campaign.

Wrote its editorial board: "Religious conservatives are casting Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex weddings, as the last stand against Armageddon. They warn that ministers would be jailed for preaching against homosexuality, or that churches refusing to marry gay couples would face lawsuits and lose tax exemption. Small matter that thousands of same-sex marriages in California and Massachusetts have neither brought the world to an end nor triggered such excess."

The paper isn't totally for gay marriage, however; like Barack Obama, it likes the separate-but-equal notion provided to civil unions.

Salon.com had an interesting piece addressing what could happen concerning the gay marriage propositions when ethnic minorities go to the polls in large numbers to pull the level for Obama. LaDoris Cordell, an African-American lesbian, said that blacks haven't done as much for the gay rights movement as they should, due to long-standing homophobia and deep religious roots have impeded some movement, she said.

"Sadly," she continued, "some African-Americans believe that it is only we who should benefit from the gains achieved by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. They fear that to allow the gay community to enter the doors of opportunity opened by our struggle, to permit gays and lesbians to share in the fruits of that movement, will diminish those benefits for the black community. Truth is, there is more than enough to go around."

She believes that while the African-American community will "come through," she wonders what effect Mexican-Americans, who are Catholic and are more firmly rooted against gay marriage, will have on the election.

However, she ended with a story about two Mexican-American women whom she married as a judge. Seeing the family members wearing crosses, she assumed they were there out of politeness -- and was happy to discover she was wrong.

"I witnessed three generations of Latinos -- parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, who, with tears of love and joy, embraced Patricia and Camille.... As one family member later told me, "I don't understand all the fuss. Supporting two people who love each other is just the Christian thing to do."

Hopefully the voters will think the same way.

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Tricia Romano