The Catholic Thing
Marriage Wins Big, Unborn Lose Big Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Pro-lifers lost big and marriage proponents won handily in this week’s election. The most dramatic pro-life loss, of course, was the presidency. The president-elect is the most vociferous and radical supporter of abortion who will have ever occupied the White House. As of this writing, the final result in the Congress is not known, but pro-lifers are sure to have suffered a net loss in seats, including the one occupied by pro-life hero Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado. Pro-lifers also lost many important statewide initiatives.

Pro-suicide won in Washington. Embryo-destructive research won in Michigan. And three important anti-abortion initiatives lost. An initiative to make abortion illegal in South Dakota lost for the second time in a row. A "human personhood" initiative lost in Colorado. And a parental notification initiative lost in California.

Pro-life initiatives lost in part because of the large turnout for Obama. The loss in California was the second for that particular parental notification initiative and has to be understood in light of California’s very liberal support for abortion. In South Dakota and Colorado, the losses can be chalked up to, among other things, the hubris and overreaching of pro-life purists who eschewed the incremental approach and longed to see themselves and their own initiatives become The One To Overturn Roe.

The Catholic bishops certainly did their part. More than 100 bishops spoke out on the question of abortion as the primary social policy consideration this year. This is unlike anything we have seen before. The McCain Catholic campaign was rather anemic and suffered from bad management, worse execution, and internal turf battles that resulted in Obama winning the generic Catholic vote, which George Bush won four years ago.

Marriage on the other hand did very well this week. Traditional marriage won in Florida, Arizona (where only a few years ago it lost), and also in California. Who would have thought that marriage could win in left-wing California? How ironic that the win there can be attributed in large part to the black vote, which turned out en masse for Obama. Yet 70 percent of California blacks also stayed in the booth long enough to pull the lever in favor of traditional marriage. Hispanics closely split on the issue but went slightly for traditional marriage. Whites in California basically split on gay marriage.

It seems that traditional marriage cannot lose whenever it is put before actual voters. With the single exception of Arizona a few years ago, marriage has won statewide referenda in thirty states, including such liberal states as Oregon, Wisconsin, and now California. Marriage has only lost in the courts. What is most impressive about all of these victories is that many of them have come with 60 percent or higher voting in favor of traditional marriage.

Maggie Gallagher, the shrewdest person around on marriage and politics, remains worried. She foresees that the next battle will take place not in statewide referenda, but in state legislatures. Most notably she sees New Jersey and New York headed towards approving gay marriage in their legislatures, especially now that the GOP has lost its longtime dominance in the New York State Senate.

Gallagher also fears the impending Obama nominations for the U.S. Supreme Court. Given that gay marriage is allowed in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and was legal for a short time in California, everyone knows the issue is headed to the Supreme Court eventually. There will be a full faith and credit challenge by some gay couple moving from Connecticut to Virginia. With Lawrence vs. Texas making homosexual sodomy a constitutional right and Lawrence also guaranteeing that we have the right to define our own meaning of the universe, it will take firm hands on the court to resist the gay judicial juggernaut.

Let’s hope that the Supremes listen a little to public opinion and that the string of impressive victories for traditional marriage in the voting booth will convince them that now is not the time to erode their credibility further by overturning a centuries-old institution. Gallagher notes that only one more vote on the court is needed to overturn marriage.

Marriage activists know also that now is the time to keep pushing. Things are changing rapidly. Mainstreaming homosexuality in the popular culture has had its effect. So has the enculturation that our young people are forced to endure in school. The younger generation has been raised on gay-friendly messages and are now more inclined than their elders to support gay marriage. But don’t despair just yet. As children of the divorce culture, lots of them have understood or will come to understand that children need mothers and fathers and that, just maybe, ersatz substitutions won’t do.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington DC-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. He welcomes your comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Comments (7)Add Comment
written by Michael, November 07, 2008
Mr. Ruse mentions the Colorado personhood amendment. I do not blame the pro-life leaders who were "going all the way" for its loss. I blame the pro-life public that refuses to see the necessary connection between contraception and abortion, as noted by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. I know many pro-lifers who opposed the amendment because of its implications for contraception. Until we truly embrace our pro-life principles, no matter how uncomfortable, abortion will be always threatening society.
written by Bill, November 07, 2008
It would seem that some people still think that the genital structure of human anatomy might be that way for a reason.
written by Austin, November 07, 2008
I am not blaming the prolife leaders for the loss in Colorado or South Dakota. I am saying that they should not have brought these initiatives forward in the first place because the Supreme Court is not yet ready to overturn Roe. And in losing, the movement gets a long lasting blackeye. Proponents say they are counting on God intervening with Justice Kennedy, something He has not been inclined to do so far.

I agree totally that contraception is directly connected to abortion.
written by James the Least, November 07, 2008
California isn't as liberal as you think, Austin, at least on social questions. A huge chunk of the liberal voting bloc in this state is composed of poor blacks and hispanics. They vote liberal, rightly or wrongly, for economic reasons. If you take them out of the equation, the picture changes dramatically. In the case of Prop 8, the question wasn't economic, and you see the results of that. The win admittedly wasn't big, but it does reflect the views of millions upon millions of Californians.
written by Austin, November 08, 2008
I understand about the makeup of the vote and that blacks went overwhelmingly for prop 8, but parental notification, a very sensible restriction, failed for a second time. I would say there is a huge difference between marriage and abortion when it comes to the black voter.
written by Michael, November 08, 2008
I understand your reasoning, Austin. Unfortunately with the results of the presidential election, it doesn't look like the balance on the Court is going to change. We will just have to keep praying. Keep up the good work.
written by Jamie Ballenger, November 10, 2008
My opinion is abortion is better addressed as part of a discussion concerning marriage.As long as marriage is devalued the "why" chastity and fidelity is completely lost on people. Abortion is often the result of a habit of being, and a habit of being chaste is a good way to avoid becoming pregnant and to prepare oneself for a habit of being faithful. In addition to working to change laws, we need to be strengthening the understanding of living a chaste life as a preparation for married life.JB

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