The Politics of Anti-Marriage Amendments
April 21st, 2008
Arizona became the first state in the union to defeat an anti-marriage amendment in 2006. Thats when voters gave the thumbs down to Proposition 107, which sought to enshrine marriage inequality into the state constitution, with 48.2% voting “yes” and 51.8% “no” (PDF: 220KB/18 pages). Now legislators in the Arizona House appear poised to approve a measure to put another anti-marriage amendment on the ballot for 2008. Some of those legislators who are reportedly leaning towards approving the measure represent districts which voted against the 2006 proposal, bucking the wisdom of their own constituents.
Let’s take the 30th legislative district as an example. The 30th spans the eastern part of Pima County (including Tucson’s eastern suburbs) and dips down to cover the northern half of Santa Cruz county and a small bite of Cochise County. This is a lightly suburban and rural district.
The way the Arizona House is set up, there are two representatives for each legislative district. Voters are asked to choose two names from a slate of candidates, and the top two vote winners are elected to seats in that district. For the 30th district, voters in 2006 chose Marian McClure (R, 36%) and Jonathan Paton (R, 34%) over Clarence Boykins (D, 30%). McClure and Paton are two of the legislators who are expected to vote to place the 2008 anti-marriage measure on the ballot.
You might think that those voters in the 30th really like their conservative Republicans, and in Arizona that’s often the case. But things aren’t always so straightforward here in the independent-minded West. A careful analysis of all the individual voting precincts which make up the 30th reveals that Arizona voters are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves and don’t need party labels or outside pressure groups to tell them how to vote.
It turns out that those very same voters who sent McClure and Paton to the statehouse also chose Janet Napolitano (D, 62.6%) over Len Munsil (R, 37.4%) for governor, and they preferred Gabrielle Giffords (D, 51.5%) over Randy Graf (R, 48.5%) for the U.S. Congress. Rep. Giffords now represents Rep. Jim Kolbe’s (R) seat. Kolbe, you may remember, retired in 2006 after continuing to represent his district for some ten years after coming out as gay.
And those voters did not like the idea of having inequality written into the state constitution, with 52.5% voting against Prop 107 and only 47.5% voting for it. This means that voters in this suburban and rural district defeated Prop 107 by a wider margin than did voters statewide.
If McClure and Paton had been paying any attention to their own constituents, we wouldn’t be hearing about their intentions to vote next week against their own district’s wishes. But right now, it appears that they intend to ignore the very voters who sent them to the statehouse, and they will instead vote to permanently disenfranchise thousands of Arizona citizens — those same family members, friends and neighbors who the voters of the 30th district stood up for in 2006. Arizona is definitely changing. It’s time for our legislators to start paying attention.