Marriage Amendment Passes, But May Have Cost Allen the Election

An analysis of the voting pattern Tuesday in Virginia suggests that the so-called “marriage amendment” on the ballot as Question 1 might have cost U.S. Senator George Allen the election. If true, it would mark an ironic twist, the backfiring of an effort Republicans hoped would spur a stronger turnout for their incumbent.

It would also be consolation for opponents to the Constitutional ban on gay marriage, which passed by a 57% to 43% margin statewide.

The analysis is based on a comparison of votes cast for Question 1 compared to the other two amendments on Tuesday’s ballot, and especially to Question 2. Question 2 involved granting churches in Virginia the right to incorporate. It was strongly pushed by the same religiously-based forces that backed passage of the anti-gay marriage measure.

But Question 2 garnered 133,411 fewer votes than Question 1, meaning that many more voters were moved to vote on the gay marriage measure.

Of those additional votes, more than that entire margin voted “No” on Question 1. With all but three of the state’s 2,443 precincts reporting as of late yesterday, 231,727 voted against Question 1 than voted against Question 2.

It can be credibly argued that a significant portion of those extra 231,727 people who voted against the gay marriage ban also voted against Allen. Many of them, in fact, may have been motivated to come to the polls by the aggressive campaign led by a well-organized collective effort of civic and religious groups known as the Commonwealth Coalition.

With Allen’s margin of defeat in the Senate election being only 7,307 votes, any significant percentage of the 231,727 additional “No” voters on Question 1 would have been decisive. Allen’s opponent, James Webb, stated publicly his opposition to Question 1 during the campaign.

The Commonwealth Coalition raised close to $1 million to urge a “No” vote on Question 1, far more than a reported less than $100 in funds raised by proponents of the measure.

The Coalition cautioned voters that Question 1 was more than a simple Constitutional ban on gay marriage, but that it mandated the state not “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals,” in general, as its second paragraph states. Also, with laws already on the books against gay marriage, the amendment was unnecessary, but placed into the Virginia Constitution discrimination against a particular class of people.

While Question 1 passed overall in the state, the outcome in Northern Virginia was quite different, reflecting a growing overall pattern in state elections.

In this case, it was also true for university towns all around the state. In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, the “No” vote on Question 1 prevailed with 77% of the total, the highest percentage in the state. University towns of Lexington, Williamsburg and Fredericksburg also voted against the measure, indicating a trend among younger voters statewide.

In Northern Virginia, the “No” votes prevailed by 73.81% in Arlington, 70.5% in Alexandria, 69.17% in the City of Falls Church, 54.17% in Fairfax County and 52.91% in Fairfax City. They also prevailed in Norfolk, Richmond and Petersburg.

While the measure passed, overall, in Virginia, proponents of gay and lesbian equal rights took solace in the vote in Arizona, where the public voted to remove a ban on gay marriage, and in the defeat of a number of politicians nationwide considered particularly opposed to gay rights. That list included Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Indiana Rep. John Hostetler. The Washington, D.C., based Human Rights Campaign, a major proponent of gay rights, reported that 208 of the 225 candidates it endorsed in elections Tuesday won.

In a letter to supporters issued yesterday, Paula Prettyman, president of Equality Fairfax, called the effort to defeat Question 1 in Virginia “an investment.”

“We’re better off for this long campaign,” she added. “The larger community we are a part of understands us better, they have sympathy for our concerns and, I believe, they want to begin helping us secure the rights we need to protect ourselves and our families. We might not have victory today, but we will soon.”