In what was the most expensive and arguably the most high profile of the nation's 153 ballot measures, California's Proposition 8 was projected to pass Wednesday morning by the Associated Press and other news organization.
If the victory holds, the measure will overturn the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.
"We caused Californians to rethink this issue," Proposition 8 strategist Jeff Flint said, according to the Los Angeles Times, adding that the measure once trailed by 17 points in early polling during the campaign. "I think the voters were thinking, 'well, if it makes them happy, why shouldn't we let gay couples get married?' And I think we made them realize that there are broader implications to society and particularly the children when you make that fundamental change that's at the core of how society is organized, which is marriage."
However, opponents said they would not yet concede victory
with as many as 4 million votes remaining uncounted.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for
Lesbian Rights and a leader of the No on Prop. 8 campaign, told the Orange
County Register other reporters on a conference call Wednesday morning that the
margin is too close -- currently standing at 52 percent for to 48 percent
against -- to consider giving up until there's an official winner named by the
Secretary of State, the Orange County Register reported.
Late-arriving provisional ballots, including her own, tend
to come from younger, progressive voters who make up the core of the No on 8
movement, Kendell said.
Similar bans had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday. However, California has seen about 18,000 gay couples married
since a state Supreme Court ruling in May. State Attorney General Jerry Brown
has said those marriages will remain valid, although legal challenges are
Spending for and against the amendment reached $74 million,
making it the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the
most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House, the
Associated Press reported.
Gay-rights activists suffered defeats elsewhere as well.
Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and Arkansas
voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or
foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main
In other ballot measures across the country, voters in
Colorado and South Dakota rejected proposals that could have led to sweeping
bans of abortion. Washington became the second state after Oregon to
offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide, the AP
In Colorado, a first-of-its-kind measure that would have
defined life as beginning at conception was soundly defeated. Its opponents
said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as
well as abortion.
In South Dakota, voters once again rejected a proposed law
that would have banned most abortions. The latest measure, which was less
restrictive than a defeated 2006 measure, would have outlawed abortions but
included exceptions for rape, incest and pregnancies that threaten the life or
health of the woman.
Washington voters gave solid approval to an initiative
modeled after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law, which allows a
terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to
themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people have
used it to end their lives. Most of them were ailing with cancer.
Advocates for marijuana reform scored two victories, with
Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug
and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical
Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or
less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit
the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.
The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to
register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of
marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.
Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and
gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in
California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure
were too close to call.
Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters
approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric
utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by
2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would
have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from
windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by
Two animal-welfare measures passed, including a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts and a
proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.
Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state
income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.
Critics of the Massachusetts income tax repeal proposal said
it would have wreaked budgetary havoc at a time when the state is already
grappling with a financial downturn.
The measure would have cut the 5.3 percent tax rate in half
in January, and then killed it completely in January 2010, according to the AP.