Two States to Define `Marriage': Alaska, Hawaii Votes on Gay Unions Look to Be Tossups

Article excerpt

Same-sex "marriage" will get its first public referendums Tuesday when voters in Hawaii and Alaska decide whether to amend their state constitutions to uphold traditional marriage.

The Alaska amendment appears poised to pass, with 61 percent support in polls. It would alter the constitution to say that "to be valid, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman."

The Hawaii amendment, which would change the constitution to say that "the Legislature should have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples," has more than 50 percent support.

But the final vote is a tossup, due to a voting rule that counts blank ballots as "no" votes.

Blank ballots are a "significant handicap" to those trying to pass the amendment, said the Rev. Marc Alexander, a leader of Save Traditional Marriage '98 (STM).

Pro-amendment groups in both states were recently bolstered by contributions from Mormon leaders - some $500,00O went to the Alaska Family Coalition (AFC) and $600,000 went to STM in Hawaii.

These gifts reflect the church's "strong commitment to preserving traditional marriage," said spokesman Don LeFevre, who added that there are 54,000 Mormons in Hawaii and 25,000 Mormons in Alaska.

The Mormon donations helped even the spending contest in Hawaii, where pro-homosexual activists had raised more than $1 million to defeat the amendment. In Alaska, the Mormon gift gave amendment supporters an enormous $600,000 war chest, compared with the $200,000 raised by its main opponent, Alaskans for Civil Rights.

Homosexual groups, which say the amendments threaten their civil rights by denying them the right to a civil marriage like other couples, said the Mormon contributions were crude attempts to buy votes. …