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Ballot measure losses jolt the religious right

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15627022/ Ballot measure losses jolt the religious right Anti-abortion, stem cell, same-sex issues all falter; leaders left wondering
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2006
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      http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15627022/

      Ballot measure losses jolt the religious right
      Anti-abortion, stem cell, same-sex issues all falter;
      leaders left wondering

      Updated: 1 hour, 59 minutes ago

      From the country's heartland, voters sent messages
      that altered America's culture wars and dismayed the
      religious right - defending abortion rights in South
      Dakota, endorsing stem cell research in Missouri, and,
      in a national first, rejecting a same-sex marriage ban
      in Arizona.

      Conservative leaders were jolted by the setbacks and
      looked for an explanation Wednesday. Gay-rights and
      abortion-rights activists celebrated.

      The verdict on abortion rights was particularly clear.
      Oregon and California voters defeated measures that
      would have required parents to be notified before a
      girl under 18 could get an abortion, and South
      Dakotans - by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent -
      rejected a new state law that would have banned all
      abortions except to save a pregnant woman's life.

      Red-state rebellion
      "This was really a rebellion in the heart of
      red-state, pro-life America - the heart of the
      northern Bible Belt," said Sarah Stoesz, head of the
      Planned Parenthood chapter that oversees South Dakota.
      "It sends a very strong message to the rest of the
      country."

      South Dakota legislators had passed the law in
      expectation it would trigger a court challenge and
      lead to a possible Supreme Court reversal of the 1973
      Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
      Abortion-rights leaders said Wednesday that such
      strategies should be abandoned.

      "Voters in every corner of the country made it clear
      they are tired of divisive attacks on a woman's right
      to choose," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL
      Pro-Choice America.

      Anti-abortion leaders said the GOP shared some of the
      blame for the defeat. The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
      president of Human Life International, said President
      Bush and other top Republicans failed to campaign
      strongly for the South Dakota abortion ban and against
      the Missouri stem cell measure.

      'Family values' issues lose steam
      "While South Dakotans fought valiantly to defend their
      babies, we once again witnessed an almost total lack
      of support from the national leadership," Euteneuer
      said.

      The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue said the
      election results meant any legislation from Congress
      restricting abortion would be "virtually impossible"
      for the next two years.

      "America has voted and the bloody results have placed
      the most vulnerable among us, the pre-born, in the
      crosshairs for continued extermination," said
      Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

      Janice Shaw Crouse, a conservative analyst with
      Concerned Women for America, suggested that
      Republicans - some of them entangled in corruption and
      sex scandals - had lost some of the selling power of
      the "family values" themes they had pushed in recent
      elections.

      "Families had such high hopes when conservatives were
      in power; they ended up discouraged, disappointed and
      disillusioned," she said.

      Stem-cell efforts stymied
      In Missouri, anti-abortion groups, evangelical
      Christian clergy and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of
      St. Louis campaigned hard against the stem cell
      measure, contending it would condone life-destroying
      embryonic research.

      Debbie Forck, a Catholic from Jefferson City, Mo., was
      among those giving the measure a narrow victory.

      "I've had several family members that have had
      debilitating illnesses," said Forck, 50. "It goes
      against my church, but to eliminate pain in my life, I
      thought it was worth it."

      Liberal groups did have some setbacks. Michigan voters
      approved a ban on some types of affirmative action
      programs, Colorado and Arizona passed measures
      targeting illegal immigrants, and seven states
      approved gay-marriage bans, joining 20 that had done
      so in previous elections.

      Gay-rights gains
      However, gay-rights supporters took heart at the
      relatively close results in some of the seven states,
      notably in South Dakota, where the ban received only
      52 percent of the vote.

      In Arizona, the defeat of the ban stemmed in part from
      its scope. It not only would have reinforced an
      existing state law against same-sex marriage, but also
      would have barred any government entities from
      recognizing civil unions or domestic partnerships in
      providing benefits to employees.

      "We knew all along that once voters were informed
      about the true impact. ... they would oppose this
      hurtful initiative," said Steve May of Arizona
      Together, which opposed the measure. Gay-rights
      leaders said the election results would likely shelve
      any serious push for a federal ban-gay-marriage
      amendment. They also were pleased by the defeats of
      several Republicans whom they considered archenemies -
      notably Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Indiana
      Rep. John Hostettler.

      "It's the end of an era for divisive, gay-bashing
      politics - at least in the minds of the American
      people," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
      Rights Campaign.

      Abortion wars
      Similarly, abortion-rights groups welcomed the defeat
      of Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican
      who had touted his efforts to seize women's medical
      records from abortion clinics.

      "It is time to end the abortion wars," said Frances
      Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

      One election subplot was a campaign led by New York
      City real estate investor Howard Rich to promote
      ballot measures in numerous states seeking to rein in
      state and local government.

      Of nine Rich-supported measures, only one succeeded -
      a property-rights measure in Arizona that would
      require state and local authorities to compensate
      property owners if land-use regulations lower the
      value of their property. Similar measures lost in
      California, Idaho and Washington, while Oregon and
      Colorado rejected term-limit bills, and Maine,
      Nebraska and Oregon rejected proposals to cap state spending.
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