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Election Update: The Races to Follow


In many parts of this country, November 3, 2009 will be just another Tuesday. Because of scant press coverage, it's easy to forget there are numerous issues and races at stake on Election Day that will have significant ramifications for gay and transgender people. Here's a CliffsNotes version of Tuesday's LGBT ballot battles.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

In Kalamazoo, Mich., voters will decide whether or not to uphold a city ordinance passed in June that bars discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Though no polling data is available, supporters of the antidiscrimination ordinance have out-fundraised their antigay opponents, who have criticized the measure as "special rights on sexual behavior and cross-dressing," and have focused their repeal effort largely on the specter of "cross-dressing men" using women's bathrooms, according to ads by Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination.


The state of same-sex marriage Maine is still anyone's guess at this point. The poll floated this morning by Public Policy Polling gave opponents of marriage equality the edge with 51% of the vote and 47% for those who want to maintain Maine's legalization of same-sex marriage, with a 2.9% margin of error.

Nate Silver at did an analysis of the PPP results against two other polls: A Research 2000/Daily Kos poll that showed Question 1 losing by one point. A Pan Atlantic SMS poll shows the initiative losing by 11 points. (Note, if the measure is voted down or "loses," Maine's legalization of same-sex marriage will remain intact.)

As always, the fate of Question 1 all comes down to turnout -- whether voters skew younger or older and which voters are more motivated to get to the polls.

As Silver puts it, "There is also not a lot of evidence that conservatives have the edge in terms of organization or enthusiasm. On the contrary, the No-on-1 campaign has received contributions from nine times as many Mainers as the Yes-on-1 side, and Yes-on-1's messaging has been haphazard, to put it generously. With that said, the gay marriage question is one on which
conservatives have typically had an enthusiasm advantage, although that may be changing, with conservatives devoting more of their energies to abortion and fiscal policy."

Silver's analysis jibes with polling that has shown No-on-1 voters feel more passionately about preserving marriage equality than their conservative counterparts feel about overturning the law -- a paradigm shift from almost every previous statewide marriage vote.

"In spite of the PPP poll," concludes Silver, "the polling average still favors the 'No' side, albeit narrowly; the 'No' side seems to have run the superior campaign, and the cellphone issue may be worth a point or two. The tight polling, certainly, should keep everybody on their toes, and gay marriage could quite easily be overturned. But I'd still put the Yes on 1 side as about a 5-to-2 underdog."

More on races in New Jersey, Washington and New York...

New Jersey

New Jersey's gubernatorial race is a total toss-up between Democratic governor Jon Corzine, who supports same-sex marriage, and Republican Chris Christie, who supports amending the state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Christie even sent a last-minute mailer targeting Corzine's support for same-sex marriage that concluded, "When you vote this Tuesday, please vote for the candidate that shares your values."

Polling released Sunday shows Christie at 43% of the vote to Corzine's 42% with 8% favoring independent Chris Daggett.

Regardless of who wins this race, the New Jersey legislature is widely expected to vote on a same-sex marriage bill during the lame-duck session between Tuesday's vote and January. Gov. Corzine has pledged to sign the bill.

New York

Now that GOP pro-marriage equality candidate Dede Scozzafava has pulled out of the race and thrown her endorsement to Democrat Bill Owens, the polling still looks as if conservative candidate Doug Hoffman is favored to win this race.

A Siena poll released Monday morning puts Hoffman at 41% and Owens at 36%, with 18% undecided. While the race is far from a lock, most political observers are giving Hoffman the edge, a win that will surely embolden conservative Republicans to further intimidate moderate Republicans and even push them out of the Party.

As noted in View from Washington, the race could further dissuade members of the GOP from taking pro-LGBT stances.


Gay rights leaders in Washington State are now fighting to keep the latest domestic partnership rights recently bestowed to them by their legislature and signed into law earlier this year by Democratic governor Christine Gregoire. This domestic partnership bill is actually the state's third iteration of legislation intended to increase rights for Washington's unmarried couples. The latest bill provides almost all the rights of marriage -- including hospital visitation, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and rights involving inheritance and community property -- to registered domestic partners. But conservative groups are fighting to roll back the latest bill, saying it's setting the stage for same-sexmarriage in Washington.

Referendum 71 asks voters to "approve" or "reject" the latest expansion to the state's domestic partnership law. Recent polls show a majority of Washingtonians wants to keep the law; the pro-gay side has been better funded and able to advertise on television (it was helped with donations from Microsoft and its founder, Bill Gates).

According to the Associated Press, "independent pollster Stuart Elway found the measure holding a 46-41 lead for approval among registered voters, with 13 percent undecided. This week, the Washington Poll, released through the University of Washington, found even stronger support, with a 56-39 lead, with 5 percent undecided."

Even more contentious than the effort to take away rights away from Washington's domestic partners has been the push to reveal the people who signed petitions that allowed the issue to reach the ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court recently stopped the release of 138,000 names until they decide whether to rule on this issue in their court.

Check back to Tuesday for updates on all five of these races.

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