By Sarah Carlson, Arts Editor
Texas became the 19th state to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage Tuesday during its off-year election, where 77 percent of voters voted in favor of the ban and 23 percent opposed it.
Secretary of State Roger Williams said in a press release 18 percent of Texas’ 12.5 million registered voters participated, 2 percent higher than predicted and an increase from the 12.2 percent recorded in 2003. Taylor County also had an 18 percent voter turnout.
“I, and everybody else, expected it to pass by big margins,” said Dr. Neal Coates, assistant professor of political science. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist in Texas to know this is a done deal.”
The ban did fail in one Texas county: Travis, home to Austin, where 60 percent of those voting opposed it.
House Joint Resolution 6, Proposition 2 on the ballot, states, “that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”
Whether or not the constitutional amendment was necessary was a main point for dissention among voters. Same-sex marriage is already banned in Texas through The Defense of Marriage Act of 2003.
Coates said the amendment was “absolutely necessary” because when the U.S. Supreme Court eventually considers the constitutional legality of same-sex marriage, it will look to states’ constitutions to see how many uphold a constitutional ban.
Massachusetts is the only state that recognizes same-sex marriage, while California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Vermont grant persons in same-sex unions domestic partnerships, civil unions or reciprocal beneficiary laws. Texas in now one of 19 states that constitutionally bans same-sex marriage, while 27 states have statutes defining marriage as between two members of the opposite sex.
Article IV, Section I of the U.S. Constitution states “full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.” Because of this, Coates said, the Supreme Court will have to consider whether a same-sex marriage created in Massachusetts will be recognized in a state that carries a ban on the marriage.
“It’s very important that as many states as possible speak up on this issue,” he said.
Others felt the 2003 law banning same-sex marriage was enough and amending the Constitution wasn’t needed.
“I personally did not think the amendment was necessary and personally thought it was not a well-worded amendment, among other things,” said Dr. David Dillman, professor of political science.
Both Coates and Dillman said they had not noticed an increase in student involvement for the vote but each had talked with a few students on the matter and raised the issue in their classes.
Dillman said it’s important for students to be involved in the voting process and pay attention to the issues.
“Whether it’s Social Security, health care or gay marriage,” he said, “that will shape the state of our national, and it’s important to be involved.”