Culture Wars: Mixed Results for Abortion, Marriage and Marijuana Ballot Measures

By Patrick Goodenough | November 7, 2012 | 1:33 AM EST

Same-sex marriage supporters rally outside the City Hall in Portland, Maine in September, in support of a ballot question that seeks to legalize gay marriage. The measure passed on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Joel Page, File)

(Updates with results, corrects date of N.C. marriage ballot measure)

( – Americans across the nation had their say on scores of state ballot measures on Tuesday, covering issues ranging from marriage to immigration, and from abortion to Obamacare.

Abortion was on the ballot in Montana, where a measure mandating parental notification for minors passed; and in Florida, where an unsuccessful amendment would have prohibited the use of public funds for abortion or health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.

Religious freedom questions included a Florida ballot measure amending the state constitution to provide that no-one may denied governmental benefits, funding or other support on the basis of religious identity or belief. The measure failed by a significant margin.

In Missouri, voters approved a constitutional amendment that guarantees a citizen’s right to pray and worship in all private and public areas – including schools – as long as the activities are voluntary and subject to the same rules and regulations that apply to all other types of speech.

On immigration, Maryland voters passed a measure that allows in-state tuition for certain “undocumented immigrants.”

Pushing the other way, another immigration initiative succeeded in Montana – requiring proof of U.S. citizenship to receive state-funded services, including unemployment or disability benefits and aid for university students.

Gun rights featured in Louisiana, where a measure was approved to amend the constitution to uphold the fundamental and uninfringeable right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, and deleting a current provision stating that the right to bear arms shall not prevent the passage of concealed-carry laws.

Marriage-related issues were on ballots in several states. Voters in Minnesota failed to amend the state’s constitution to recognize marriage between one man and one woman only. (A similar measure passed in North Carolina last May.)

Moving in the opposite direction, Maryland, Maine and the state of Washington voted to amend the law to allow same-sex marriage, without requiring religious entities to carry out rites or offer services in violation of their beliefs.

Proposals to amend the constitutions of Alabama, Wyoming and Montana to prohibit mandatory participation in any health care system passed. A similar measure in Florida failed.

Medical marijuana clone plants at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

The status of marijuana was a popular issue on state ballots.

Washington and Colorado voters passed initiatives that would allow people over age 21 to possess and consume marijuana, under various types of licenses, while voters in Massachusetts approved a medical marijuana measure.

Montana passed an initiative to restore a 2004 voter-approved law – repealed in 2011 – making it legal for patients in chronic pain or with a terminal illness to obtain and use marijuana.

On the other hand, a ballot initiative in Oregon authorizing personal use and cultivation of marijuana failed, as did one in Arkansas that would have made medical use of the drug legal.

California voters defeated proposition 34, which sought to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, applying retroactively to people already on death row.

A close contest in Massachusetts saw voters shoot down a euthanasia initiative. The proposal would have allowed a state-licensed physician to prescribe medication to end the life of a terminally-ill patient, at the patient’s request.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow