On election night voters across the country were not only anxiously awaiting election returns on races involving candidates, but also the outcome of various ballot measures. These measures reflected a wide spectrum of social policy issues and often resulted in close outcomes. In many of the states the Catholic conferences took a leading role in supporting or opposing the measures.
Catholic conferences have long fought to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage. Unfortunately, voters in Maine and Maryland became the first states to narrowly approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote. In a statement regarding the same-sex measure the Maryland Catholic Conference lamented that by re-defining marriage the fundamental family unit of mother, father and child was dismantled. Similarly, voters in Washington upheld a law allowing same sex marriage while preserving the right of clergy not to participate in such a ceremony. In Minnesota, despite the efforts of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, voters narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.
While the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) was disappointed in the outcome on same-sex marriage, it was grateful that state voters supported the Dream Act measure on the ballot. This measure, endorsed by the MCC, allowed in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. The MCC noted that it was to everyone’s benefit to allow these successful, intelligent and passionate young people to continue their education and give back to the state.
The Florida Catholic Conference (FCC) was actively engaged in supporting two amendments relating to the use of state funds for abortions. Amendment 6 would have placed in the state’s constitution a prohibition on the use of public funds for abortions, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother is at risk. The amendment also required parental consent for minors for abortions. Amendment 6 failed to receive the required 60 percent for passage. On a separate issue, Amendment 8, known as the Blaine Amendment repeal, would have removed a constitutional ban on public dollars going to religious organizations and faith-based entities. In acknowledging the defeat of Amendment 8, the FCC noted that religious providers that provide vital services will continue to live under the shadow of a potential challenge from state government.
In recognizing the intrinsic worth and God-given dignity of all human life, the California Catholic Conference worked diligently for passage of a proposal that would have ended the death penalty in their state, replacing it with life without parole. The measure was narrowly defeated by 53 percent – 47 percent vote.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC) was strongly opposed to a “Death with Dignity” initiative that would allow terminally ill patients to receive physician supplied lethal drugs. Noting that the measure would undermine the sacredness of human life, the MCC was relieved that the measure failed by a close vote of 51 percent – 49 percent.
By supporting or opposing these various measures, the Catholic conferences are fulfilling their right and duty to educate Catholics about the moral dimensions of public policies, so they can be informed voters.