Ballot measures touch on social, ethical issues
Ashley Gipson, Religion News Service
November 08, 2008

Ballot measures touch on social, ethical issues

Ballot measures touch on social, ethical issues
Ashley Gipson, Religion News Service
November 08, 2008

WASHINGTON — Moral issues abounded on state ballots in the 2008 election, with conservative religious groups successfully working to bar gays from marrying in several states and adopting children in another.

But efforts to restrict or ban abortions failed, and measures to allow gambling, assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research passed.

“We are encouraged by the success of the marriage ballot initiatives because they, alongside the majority of states that already have this protection, show that the American people across the nation uphold marriage as only one man and one woman,” said Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Louis P. Sheldon and executive director Andrea Lafferty in a statement.

Same-sex marriage

After the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in May, proponents of an amendment to ban it claimed victory Wednesday with 52.5 percent of the vote.

California’s Proposition 8 is the most expensive proposition on any ballot, with more than $70 million invested from both sides. Now the question is if thousands of recent same-sex marriages will be allowed to stand or will be challenged as invalid in court.

Arizona and Florida voters also voted to ban same-sex marriage, joining more than two dozen other states that have made such amendments.

Arizona passed the ban with 56 percent of the vote, and 62 percent of Florida voters supported the ban, which needed a 60 percent majority to pass.


Arkansas voters chose to bar unmarried couples from adopting children or becoming foster parents. While the ban, which was approved by 57 percent of voters, will apply to all unmarried couples, it was originally proposed to prevent same-sex couples from being able to adopt.


A slim majority of Californians — 52 percent — rejected a measure that would have required minors to get parental consent to before having an abortion. The failed measure would have also required minors to wait two days before having an abortion. More than 30 other states have similar laws in place.

More than 70 percent of Colorado voters rejected an amendment to define human life as beginning at fertilization. This “personhood” amendment could have paved the way to a state abortion ban.Abortion-rights activists feared the amendment would have outlawed certain types of birth control.

South Dakota rejected a measure, 55 to 45 percent, that would have banned abortions except in cases of rape or incest. This is the second time in two consecutive elections that South Dakota voters have rejected an abortion ban, although this measure was less restrictive.

Stem cell research

Michigan amended its constitution to allow more extensive embryonic stem cell research, passing its proposition by 53 percent. The amendment will allow people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments that would otherwise be discarded. The state has allowed research on adult stem cells and stem cells harvested from umbilical chords.

Assisted suicide

Washington voters decided to allow competent adults, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to receive lethal medication prescribed by a physician, but the patients must self-administer the medication. The proposition passed by 59 percent of the vote. Oregon is the only other state with a similar law.


Maryland approved a constitutional amendment that allows 15,000 slot machines to be placed throughout the state. The proceeds will primarily go towards public education.

Massachusetts voters passed a ban on greyhound racing. Missourians repealed a “loss limit” on gambling; Colorado voters chose to extend casino’s hours of operation; Arkansas approved a state-run lottery; while Ohio rejected a measure that would have allowed the state’s first casino.