Despite First Ballot Wins, Gay Marriage Backers Still Wary of The People


The Wall Street Journal points out that despite their huge spending advantage and wins in deep-blue states, gay marriage backers are still opting to pursue their agenda through the courts and legislatures:

After notching their first wins using state ballots, gay-marriage advocates said their long-term national strategy will rely more on legislatures and federal courts than expensive state-by-state popular votes.

...But many gay-rights leaders said their strategy going forward—built on lessons from the African-American civil-rights movement—doesn't bank on taking their cause directly to voters in many more states.

"Rights should not be put to a vote," said Evan Wolfson, the founder of Freedom to Marry, a national gay-rights group that supported Tuesday's initiatives. "While we have now shown we can do it, it doesn't mean that we should have to do it, and it doesn't mean that it is easy to do." He said "very few" states are likely appropriate battlegrounds for future ballot fights, given the expense and organization required.

Opponents of same-sex marriage said Tuesday's results proved only that gay-marriage advocates could persuade voters in a few liberal states. "What they did not accomplish is changing the opinions of Americans," said Frank Schubert, political director for the National Organization for Marriage.

"I don't know exactly what they are going to do, but I expect there will be a lot of pressure on them by in-state activists" to take up new ballot battles, he said.

Gay-marriage proponents face a difficult landscape. Over the last 15 years, some 30 states passed amendments to their constitutions that define marriage as between a man and a woman, making it impossible in most cases for state courts or legislatures to legalize gay marriage. Changing those laws would require new ballot initiatives in each state or action by the federal government or courts.

Recent efforts by gay-rights groups have focused on winning support for gay marriage from legislatures in states such as New York, which didn't have a constitutional ban. Voters in Maryland and Washington on Tuesday voted whether to support decisions made by their legislatures to legalize gay marriage. Similar legislative battles could happen next year in states including Rhode Island and Delaware.