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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 03:47 AM Thread Starter
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S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2006

BERESFORD, S.D. — This is an unlikely state to blaze a trail for gay rights.

South Dakota has the smallest percentage of gay and lesbian residents in the nation — 10,000 adults, or less than 2% of the population. Conservative and religious values run deep; asked their political views, voters often respond, "I'm a Christian," as though that's explanation enough.

But South Dakota also has a live-and-let-live libertarian streak. Voters here could make history on Tuesday by rejecting a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and invalidate all other "quasi-marital" arrangements, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions.

A poll released Friday by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader found a virtual deadlock; 47% of likely voters oppose the amendment, 46% support it. In this farm town of 2,000, only two of more than a dozen people interviewed said they intended to vote for the ban.

"I believe having gay sex is a sin. I'm a conservative Christian in many ways. But I'm voting no," said Amo Beal, 58, who runs a thrift shop. "I don't believe an amendment like that belongs in the constitution. I don't trust the government to mess with [relationships]."

A few doors down, at the bridal store, Jessica Ness, 31, offered a fervent plea for a ban on all abortions. But gay marriage? "I have no issue with that," Ness said. "Everybody in this country should have equal rights…. If churches don't want to sanction the relationships, fine, but the government shouldn't be using religion as a basis to say what's right and what's wrong."

Voters in seven other states will also decide Tuesday whether to ban same-sex marriage. The campaigns have been much harder-fought — and the results less certain — than ever before.

In the last eight years, 19 states have put constitutional bans on the ballot and all have been approved, usually overwhelmingly. The closest race was in Oregon in 2004, when 57% backed the amendment. California passed a ban in 2000 with 61% support. Across the South, anti-gay-marriage measures have easily drawn 75% support.

This year, amendments in South Carolina, Tennessee and Idaho are expected to pass easily. But in five other states, including South Dakota, enthusiasm for the bans has been surprisingly weak.

In Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, the bans are expected to pass, but not by much; polls show the amendments drawing barely 50% support, with many voters still undecided. In Arizona, the mood has shifted more dramatically: Three recent polls all found support for the ban at or under 41%, suggesting the measure could fail.

The scandal involving the Rev. Ted Haggard, an influential evangelical based in Colorado Springs, could further weaken support for the bans, especially in Colorado. Haggard, who supports the marriage ban, admitted Friday he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute. The prostitute alleges that the pastor regularly paid him for sex; Haggard denies that.

Some pundits said the scandal could prompt some conservative evangelical voters to stay home Tuesday in disgust or disillusionment. "This is the best thing gay-marriage supporters could have hoped for," said Ted Olsen, news director of Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine. On the other hand, as many as 40% of Colorado's ballots are cast before election day, in absentee or early voting, so the effect may be minimal.

Even before Haggard's actions became public, the religious right had been struggling to ignite a sense of urgency about gay marriage. The issue drove Republicans to the polls in 2004, when bans were on the ballot in 13 states, but this year it "doesn't have quite the same energy," said Bruce Merrill, a pollster at Arizona State University.

Gay-rights activists have also made inroads with moderates this year by refining their campaign tactics. They are making more emotional pitches for equality than in the past. And they warn that broad language invalidating all "quasi-marital" relationships could end up hurting straight unmarried couples as well as gays and lesbians.

Here in South Dakota, the campaign against the ban is appealing to the sense of community and Christian kindness that binds many rural towns. On radio spots, in newspaper ads and on bright-red yard signs, the campaign declares: "Good Neighbors Don't Discriminate."

A recent census analysis by the Williams Institute at UCLA found fewer than 1,000 same-sex couples in South Dakota — fewer than in any other state. The Argus Leader, the state's biggest newspaper, opened an article about the movie "Brokeback Mountain" in the winter with this observation: "At least presently, the idea of finding two gay, male South Dakota ranchers is as foreign as the avian flu."

So voters here are not all that comfortable with the concept of same-sex unions. Many, however, are even less comfortable with an amendment declaring such relationships invalid.

A woman browsing the Beresford flower shop summed up the town's prevailing philosophy as: Don't judge anyone until you've walked in his shoes. She has no right to decide whether two gay men should marry, she said, "because I'm not one of 'em."

The woman, a devout Catholic in her 50s, would not give her name, out of concern that her neighbors might be a bit more judgmental than she'd hope. But her anger at the proposed amendment was clear; as she walked away, she muttered: "Government has gotten into things it just doesn't belong in."

Down the block at the hardware store, clerk Kristi Bye, 51, agreed. She's no gay-rights activist; when her granddaughter staged a wedding of two Barbie dolls, Bye was so disturbed that she rushed out to buy a Ken doll to serve as groom. Still, she said it didn't strike her as fair or practical to enshrine her preference for traditional marriage in the state constitution. "You're not going to stop gays from existing. They'll still be here," she said. So why not let them formalize their relationships?
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 03:49 AM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

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Down the block at the hardware store, clerk Kristi Bye, 51, agreed. She's no gay-rights activist; when her granddaughter staged a wedding of two Barbie dolls, Bye was so disturbed that she rushed out to buy a Ken doll to serve as groom. Still, she said it didn't strike her as fair or practical to enshrine her preference for traditional marriage in the state constitution. "You're not going to stop gays from existing. They'll still be here," she said. So why not let them formalize their relationships?

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 04:23 AM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

Wasn't this article written before the elections? Cause the ban passed, but with a very small margin nonetheless.

It shows you that you really can't put thing into black and white. South Dakota is a deeply conservative state, yet the ban passed in 52/48, while in liberal Wisconsin, it passed with something like 60/40.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 04:31 AM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

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Wasn't this article written before the elections? Cause the ban passed, but with a very small margin nonetheless.
Yeh, article says Nov.4.

Anyway a lot of the views expressed in the article are entirely correct.

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 04:40 AM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

Rock on South Dakota.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 04:54 AM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

This is something I've never understood, why has the Supreme Court not settled this already? Griswold v. Connecticut established the right to privacy, which was used in the ruling in Roe v. Wade. There's a precedent now for it. Granted, it was being used to determine the constitutionality of laws regarding abortion but here's the heart of the ruling in Griswold:

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Together, the First, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments, create a new constitutional right, the right to privacy in marital relations.
How does gay marriage not fall under this?!? It'd be different if people were worried about a slippery slope if it was just a broad definition of right to privacy, i.e. open up the doors to legalizing narcotics, but it specifically says marital relations. Maybe the right case isn't coming before the court it make it possible, but it's mind-boggling all the same.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 03:41 PM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

Isn't Canada just up the road?

It isn't Utah.

North Dakota and South Dakota have largely Democratic
govt. leadership, and the newspapers are generally very
Democratic leaning. That's just their make up. Why is
this a surprise? It's the history of the Dakotas.

Tom Daschle - South Dakota.
Very liberal Democratic Senator.

John Thune bucked South Dakota history to defeat Daschle
as a Republican.

Tim Johnson - Democratic Senator from South Dakota.

I think the Gov. is a Democrat too.

Like California, if you ask people do you support the existing constitutional
marriage rule of male-female marraige only, they generally say yes. Do
you want a new gay marriage ban? Most go, well, sort of.



It's not like this is a hot issue in South Dakota, as the story notes, the
gay population is tiny. As is the general population of South Dakota.


I'm sure corn prices and Indian gambling are more important issues in
South Dakota.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old Nov 29th, 2006, 03:52 PM
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Re: S. Dakota not so sure about gay-marriage ban

South Dakota is no Democratic state, however you want to spin it. They have voted Republican in the presidential elections for the last 40 years, and Republicans dominate the state House and Senate. Hell, they had a very radical abortion ban on the list.
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