On Saturday, Sept 18, Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitution banning both gay marriages and same-sex civil unions, becoming the second state in the U.S. to strictly protect traditional marriage.
According to the Associated Press, the amendment received the approval of 78 percent of the votes from 99 percent of the precincts; some 27 percent of Louisianas 2.8 million voters turned out for the state election. Even in New Orleans, home to a strong, politically active gay community, the amendment received a passing vote.
Christian conservative groups praised the vote, calling it an example of the law at work.
"It's gratifying to see the people of Louisiana had an opportunity, as distinguished from judges, having the final say on the issue of whether traditional marriage will continue to be the fundamental institution in our state," said Darrell White, a retired state judge and consultant for Louisiana Family Forum, which pushed for the amendment.
In addition to the Louisiana Family Forum, Christian groups such as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family rallied grassroots support for the amendment in the weeks prior to the vote.
Meanwhile, the gay lobbyist group Forum for Equality said it will seek legal action to prevent the amendment from taking effect.
"I am disappointed that so many Louisianans either did not read the amendment or are so afraid of gays that they voted for this amendment anyway," said John Rawls, a lawyer for Forum for Equality.
Rawls said the group will clinch onto the many possible grounds for challenging the results of the election at state and federal courts; one such grounds was the delay in the delivery of voting machines to some New Orleans precincts. According to local Louisiana papers, some voting machines were delivered hours late, causing some voters to keep from casting their ballots.
However, even if the pro-gay groups were successful in halting the constitutional amendment, gay marriages and civil unions would still be prohibited in the state via regulations and laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman only. The newly passed amendment protects the law in the Constitution, and prohibits state officials and courts from recognizing out of state marriages and civil unions between homosexuals.
Missouri was the first state to have passed the amendment; ten other states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah, will vote on similar amendments by the close of 2004.