Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hawai'i and Alaska

    This is the fourth in a series of maps showing how people have voted on gay rights at a fine level of detail.
    In this post, I showing maps of the first two states to vote on restricting marriage to "one man and one woman" - Hawai'i and Alaska.
    In 1993, a Hawai'ian court found that denying similar gender couples the opportunity to marry was in violation of the equal protections guaranteed by the Constitution. After various legal wrangling issues that are too complicated for me to understand, in 1998 the Hawai'ian legislature put the following provision up as a state constitutional amendment, in order to prevent similar gender marriages from occurring.
    It passed by one of the widest margins of any such amendments seen, with 285,384 (69%) of the 403,211 votes cast. As you can see in the map below, the vote was pretty uniform across the state, with most polling places voting 60% to 75% in favor.

    In Alaska, a similar measure was also referred to the people for ratification to amend the state's constitution in 1998 (I'm still not sure why Alaska was so eager to get on board, or why so many other states held off until later years).
    This measure also passed easily, with 152,965 (68%) of the 224,596 votes cast. As in Hawai'i, there was very little regional difference in how people voted on the measure. The inset of Anchorage shows that voters in the state's largest city were no less likely to support restricting marriage. Don't read too much into the large patches of different colors in the North & the panhandle, these are because very few people live in these areas (often fewer than 20 votes cast).

    In 2007, the legislature put a non-binding question in front of the voters - basically asking "Hey, we want to make sure that no same-sex partners of state, county, or municipal government workers can get any health care, life insurance, inheritance or anything like that through spousal employment benefits, even if the local government wants to give those benefits - you cool with that?"
    And indeed, the voters were cool with that. The measure passed with 60,896 (53%) of the 115,338 votes cast. As far as I know, the Alaska legislature did not go on to propose such a constitutional amendment to deny employment benefits - perhaps they figured out that it would be an easy call for pretty much any judge to see that it wouldn't pass constitutional muster.
    In contrast to the vote 9 years earlier, there is a lot more regional heterogeneity in how Alaskans voted on this measure, and you an see a pretty strong gradient from North to South in Anchorage itself. I don't know jack about Anchorage, so I'd be curious if this looks "about right" to anyone with local knowledge. Again, you shouldn't read too much into the large patches in rural areas.

    In 2012, Anchorage residents had the opportunity to add sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination statute in the city code. The measure failed, getting only 30,208 (43%) of the 70,431 votes cast. There were some shockingly inflammatory ads run by a group against the measure (for allowing discrimination) that certainly helped tip the balance.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sexual Orientation-Related Referenda in Maine, 1995-2009

    Third in a series of maps showing how people vote on gay rights. Question 1 was put on the ballot by voter initiative in 2009 to repeal the legislature's act to grant marriages licenses without regard to the applicant's gender.
    It passed by a small margin: 266,324 to 238,595.
    In 2012, a similar issue will be up before the voters of Maine, essentially a repeal of this repeal, returning the right of Mainers to marry the ones they love.
    Want to get involved? Contact Equality Maine.

    But 2009 wasn't the first time Maine voters confronted an anti-gay referendum at the polls. On four separate occasions, the voters were asked to consider whether it should be legal to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
    In 1995, the first of these initiatives asked voters broadly whether any new classification ought to be permitted in the anti-discrimination laws of Maine. In the preceding years, a number of cities and towns in Maine had added sexual orientation protections, and this provoked a vicious response culminating in this voter initiative. Although broadly worded, the referendum was largely understood to be about sexual orientation.
    Maine voters rejected this initiative, 221,562 (53%) to 193,938.

     Then, in 1997, the Maine legislature took the step of advancing civil rights protections to all of Maine's citizens, becoming the fifth state in New England to do so. This move also provoked a response from the same folks who got a "people's veto" on the ballot for 1998 to repeal the new law.
    This time, they got their way--it passed by a slim margin in a special election: 145,452 (51%) to 138,153. You can see that the map has a lot more orange and red in it, and there is a more pronounced gradient from the coastal and Southern areas to the rural North.

    The passage of the 1998 initiative in turn provoked a couple of interesting responses. First, the legislature introduced (and got passed) a constitutional amendment so that a voter initiative wouldn't be made into a special election, it would be rolled into the next primary or general election.
    The second reaction was that the legislature again passed a law protecting the civil rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, but built into the law that it would need to pass voter approval to become law. This legislative initiative was voted on in 2000, but failed by a tiny margin: 318,846 (50%) to 314,012. You can see in this map that approval increased in the Central part of the State, while the coastal regions became slightly less favorable to gay civil rights. Hmmmm.

    The legislature took a break on the issue for a few years, but in 2005, again enacted protections for people based on sexual orientation, and this time also gender identity. Again, there was an initiative to veto the legislature's action, leading to an incredibly heated (and expensive) campaign. This time, however, the voters rejected the initiative, finally allowing the law to go into effect, the last state in New England to achieve this status. The final tally was 181,926 (45%) in favor, and 223,274 opposed. You can see in this map that the coastal regions became more supportive of civil rights again, while some of the central regions regressed a bit.

    Help make the 2012 election look more like 2005! Lend a hand to Equality Maine.