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May 20, 2009

Decoding A Proposition

Maine, as you know, recently legalized same sex marriage, which means that opponents of equal rights are mobilizing to overturn the law with a ballot initiative.  Maine's secretary of state has finalized the wording of the ballot measure thusly:

Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?

Both sides, according to the linked article, are happy with this language.  After the fiasco in California, where people apparently were confused into voting for Proposition 8 even though they support same sex marriage - at least that's what I heard - I wonder what effect this language will have.

Will people focus on "lets same-sex couples marry" or on "allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"  For people who are uncomfortable with same sex marriage, focusing on the former will lead them to support the ballot measure.  But focusing on the latter could perhaps lead them to oppose the ballot measure.  What say you? 


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The fact that this initiative ends with "allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages" is bad. It leaves in the mind the idea the the main issue at stake here is religious freedom, that is, the right of churches to decide upon whom it can confer a marriage ceremony. People might infer that the new law is some kind of encroachment on the first Amendment, and, being American, reject it. Even though nobody is actually trying to force religious institutions to perform any and all marriage ceremonies, just for the state to recognize the ceremonies that are already taking place. If the pro-gay marriage faction in Maine agreed to this wording, they're dumb.

What I'm wondering is if people will think that the new law was specifically designed to "allow individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform" same sex marriages, and overturning that law will somehow cause them to lose that protection.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm making sense, which is usually what happens to me when I think about ballot initiatives. I hate them.

No, I get what you're saying. People will reject the new law thinking it crimps religious freedom, which is doesn't, because the ballot initiative is so poorly worded.

And yeah, ballot initiatives suck. Especially ones held when no one knows they are even supposed to vote.

Don't they already have the right to refuse?

Isn't that like saying I just passed a law letting people have free speech?

Totally OT, but I don't know where else to put it and I think it needs to be shared:

Obama apparently is considering creating the legal framework for a system of "preventative detention." No habeus corpus for those so seized!


(I had to include the link separately because TypePad is being very cranky at the moment.)

why the compound and confusing and partly uninformative sentence? why couldn't it be put in simpler and more straightforward language?

there are 2 questions here: do you want to dump the law allowing same sex marriage, which is a matter of equal rights? even though the law already lets clergy opt out of doing marriages if they don't meet the clergyperson's personal standards?

corvus9, as a californian, i am so sick and done with the initiative process. i know it started out as a protection for the people against rogue legislatures, but the winner is always the side with the scariest ads. prop 13, the grandfather of all anti-tax legislation, took down california schools and public service projects, once an example for the nation. the death penalty was re-instituted in california by an initiative that was blatantly unconstitional in its scope. prop 8 made us the hate state. there are hundreds, maybe thousands, more initiatives of lesser fame, and some of them have consequences reaching far far far beyond the election cycle in which they became law.

we pay legislators to read stuff, get informed, and make good decisions even in hard circumstances. it is cowardly and idiotic for them to defer to popular vote, when the populace cannot possibly be fully informed about everything and the consequences thereof, in the context of what is already required, etc. grumble grumble grumble.

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