WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Christian right took credit for helping President George W. Bush win re-election this week, in part by mobilizing its followers to vote for a ban on gay marriage in 11 of the 50 states.
Although millions of religious conservatives did not vote in 2000, exit polls last Tuesday showed they turned out in force this time around.
“Christian evangelicals made the major difference once again this year,” said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America.
“George W. Bush has won re-election as president exactly as his campaign planned — on the strength of his appeal among religious conservatives,” said Beliefnet, an organization providing information on different religions.
Christian conservatives flocked to the polls to choose between Bush and the Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, but also to vote on gay marriage bans in 11 states, including the crucial state of Ohio that tipped the scales in Bush’s favor.
Same-sex marriage was massively rejected in every state where it was on the ballot, with votes ranging between 59 percent in Oregon and 86 percent in Mississippi.
Ohio’s amendment was the most sweeping, also banning any legal status “that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”
That measure not only bans gay marriage but also so-called civil unions that accord gay couples many of the civil protections of marriage.
Bush has backed a nationwide constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, while Kerry opposes changing the US Constitution, although he is personally against same-sex marriage.
Christian conservatives rushed to get amendments passed after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 decision to legalize same-sex marriage in its state and after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed city hall to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians earlier this year.
“There is no doubt that because four radical left-wing Massachusetts judges ruled that homosexual marriages are constitutional last year, there was a conservative backlash which played a major role in the election outcome,” Combs said.
Even some gay rights supporters were opposed to the timing of the actions taken in San Francisco and Massachusetts.
“I believe it did energize a very conservative vote,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, herself a former mayor of San Francisco. “It gave them a position to rally around. The whole issue has been too much, too soon, too fast.”
The post-election polls showed that same-sex marriage boosted voter turnout in Republican strongholds in Ohio.
Surveys suggest that the amendments brought out one million additional voters, most of whom cast their ballots for Bush. Of the 11 states where same-sex marriage amendments were on the ballot, Bush won in nine.
Republicans relentlessly courted the well-organized Christian right voting bloc, and the effort paid off.
The evangelical Christians publish election guides, hold meetings after church and go door to door to mobilize religious voters.
“We urge all Christians that they have a moral obligation to learn about the candidate’s positions, to be informed and to vote,” Colorado’s Focus on the Family group said.
One of the states Bush won was Colorado, where he received 85 percent of the evangelical Christian vote and 50 percent of the Catholic vote.
The archbishop of the Colorado capital, Denver, had urged Catholics not to vote for candidates — like Kerry — who supported abortion.