List of U.S. ballot initiatives to repeal LGBT anti-discrimination laws

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Opponents of Colorado's Amendment 2 at a rally sponsored by the National Organization for Women
Opponents of Colorado's Amendment 2 at a rally sponsored by the National Organization for Women

Jurisdictions in the United States began outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1972, when East Lansing, Michigan passed an ordinance forbidding discrimination based on "affectional or sexual preference".[1] In response, opponents began organizing campaigns to place measures on their local ballots to repeal these anti-discrimination laws. The repeal movement found a national spokesperson in Anita Bryant, who helped found—and served as president of—Save Our Children. Save Our Children organized in Florida in 1977 in response to the passage by the Dade County Commission of an anti-discrimination ordinance. Bryant's campaign was successful; the Miami-Dade ordinance was repealed by a greater than two-to-one margin. Repeal campaigns, building on this success, spread nationally and several other ordinances were repealed. In California in 1978, conservative state senator John Briggs sponsored Proposition 6, which would have barred gay and lesbian people from working in a public school. The defeat of this measure, and of an ordinance repeal measure in Seattle, Washington the same day, stalled the momentum of the repeal forces.

The mid-1980s and early 1990s saw a resurgence in ballot initiatives, culminating in proposed state constitutional amendments in Oregon and Colorado not only to repeal existing anti-discrimination ordinances but to proactively prohibit the state and any local unit of government within the state from ever passing such an ordinance. Oregon's Measure 9, sponsored by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, failed, but Colorado's Amendment 2 passed. Amendment 2 was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in its 1996 Romer v. Evans decision. Oregon and two other states, Idaho and Maine, had initiatives between the passage of Amendment 2 and the Court decision; all three were defeated but many municipalities within Oregon passed local measures.

As the question of same-sex marriage has risen to greater prominence, opponents of such marriages have turned their attention to passing constitutional amendments barring individual states from legalizing same-sex marriages or recognizing such marriages performed in other jurisdictions. These amendments are listed here. Before the marriage issue arose, some jurisdictions had begun providing limited rights and benefits to same-sex domestic partners. These ordinances also became targets of repeal efforts, with repeal supporters meeting with less success.

Ballot initiatives[edit]

Election date Locale Goal Outcome
1974 Boulder, Colorado Placed on the ballot by the Boulder city council after passage of a gay rights ordinance met with public outcry Voters repealed the ordinance, recalled a councilman who supported it and defeated the mayor at the next election. In 1987, a citizen's initiative to ban discrimination was passed by voters. That was the first such measure in the country to be passed by popular referendum.[2][3]
June 7, 1977 Miami-Dade County, Florida To repeal the county's gay rights ordinance Passed by a greater than two-to-one margin.[4]
April 25, 1978 St. Paul, Minnesota To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed by a two-to-one margin.[5]
May 9, 1978 Wichita, Kansas To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed by a five-to-one margin.[6]
May 23, 1978 Eugene, Oregon To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[7]
November 7, 1978 California Proposition 6, to bar gay and lesbian people from teaching in public schools Defeated by a two-to-one margin.[8]
Seattle, Washington To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Defeated with 63% of the vote.[9]
June 3, 1980 Santa Clara County, California To repeal the county's gay rights ordinance Passed.[10]
San Jose, California To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[10]
1984 Duluth, Minnesota To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[11]
1986 Davis, California To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Failed.
November 8, 1988 St. Paul, Minnesota To bar citizens from repealing the city's gay rights ordinance by initiative Failed.[12]
Oregon Measure 8, to revoke an executive order barring discrimination in the executive branch Passed with 53% of the vote.[13]
November 7, 1989 Athens, Ohio To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[14]
Irvine, California To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[14]
Concord, California To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed.[14]
Tacoma, Washington To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed with 51% of the vote. A 1990 ballot initiative to restore the law was rejected by over 70% of the electorate.[15]
May 21, 1991 Denver, Colorado To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Failed.[16]
November 5, 1991 St. Paul, Minnesota To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Failed with 54% of the vote.[17]
November 3, 1992 Portland, Maine To repeal the city's gay rights law Failed with 57% of the vote.[18]
Tampa, Florida To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Passed with almost 60% of the vote. However, the Florida Supreme Court later ruled that 462 signatures from the initiative petition were invalid and voided the repeal.[19]
Colorado Amendment 2, to repeal all gay rights ordinances within the state and to prevent the state or any political subdivision from passing new gay rights ordinances Passed with 53.2% of the vote.[20] Later struck down by the United States Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans.[21]
Oregon Measure 9. "All governments in Oregon may not use their monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. All levels of government, including public education systems, must assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided." Defeated with 56% of the vote.[22]
Cincinnati, Ohio Ballot Issue 3, to prevent the city from enacting any gay rights ordinances. Passed with 67% of the vote. Despite being worded almost identically to Colorado's Amendment 2, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the measure as constitutional in 1997.[23] Cincinnati voters repealed Issue 3 in 2004.[24]
Lewiston, Maine To repeal a recently passed anti-discrimination ordinance Passed by more than a two-to-one margin.[25]
November 1994 Alachua County, Florida 1) To overturn the existing gay rights law
2) To bar future ordinances
Both passed with close to 60% of the vote.[26]
November 8, 1994 Oregon Measure 13, to forbid state and local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances Defeated.[27]
Idaho Proposition 1, to forbid state and local governments from granting minority status and rights based on homosexual behavior. Defeated by a 3,000 vote margin.[28]
January 10, 1995 West Palm Beach, Florida To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Failed.[29]
March 7, 1995 Tampa, Florida To repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Five days before the election a judge threw out the referendum so the votes were not tallied.[30]
November 7, 1995 Maine Question 1, to ban the state and local governments from passing anti-discrimination ordinances Defeated with 53% of the vote.[31]
1996 Lansing, Michigan Two initiatives, both to repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Both passed.
September 10, 2002 Miami-Dade County, Florida To repeal the county's gay rights ordinance Failed.[32]
March 1, 2005 Topeka, Kansas To bar Topeka from recognizing sexual orientation as a protected class for ten years Defeated with 52% of the vote.[33]
March 24, 2009 Gainesville, Florida Charter Amendment One, to repeal the city's gay rights ordinance Failed with 58% of the vote.[34]
November 8, 2011 Traverse City, Michigan To repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance enacted in 2010. Defeated by a two-to-one margin.[35]
April 4, 2012 Anchorage, Alaska To repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance enacted in 2011. Repealed by 58% of voters.[36]

Oregon after Measure 9[edit]

After failing to pass Measure 9 in 1992, OCA turned its attention to passing anti-discrimination bans at the county and municipal level. Couching the debate in terms of forbidding LGBT people from receiving so-called "special rights", OCA sought not only to block ordinances in these communities but to bar them from spending money to "promote homosexuality".[37] OCA was successful in passing over two dozen initiatives. However, in 1993 the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed a law prohibiting local governments from considering LGBT rights measures so the ordinances had no legal force.[38] The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state law in 1995.[39] Two weeks after the United States Supreme Court ruled in Romer, OCA suspended its efforts for a third statewide ballot initiative.[40]

Election date Locale Outcome
May 19, 1992 Corvallis Failed with 63% voting against.[41]
Springfield Passed with 55.4% of the vote.[42]
May 18, 1993 Cornelius Passed.[43]
June 29, 1993 Canby Passed.[44]
Junction City Passed by one vote.[37][44] The measure was later invalidated by a court but a new initiative passed in March 1994.[45]
Douglas County Passed.[44]
Josephine County Passed.[44]
Klamath County Passed.[44]
Linn County Passed.[44]
September 21, 1993 Creswell Passed.[46]
Estacada Passed.[46]
Grants Pass Passed.[39]
Gresham Passed.[39]
Lebanon Passed.[46]
Medford Passed.[46]
Molalla Passed.[46]
Sweet Home Passed.[46]
Jackson County Passed.[46]
November 9, 1993 Keizer Passed with 55% of the vote.[38]
Oregon City Passed with 53% of the vote.[38]
March 22, 1994 Albany Passed.[45]
Junction City Passed.[45]
Turner Passed.[45]
Marion County Passed.[45]
May 17, 1994 Cottage Grove Passed.[39]
Gresham Received a majority of the vote but not the 60% majority required for passage.[47]
Oakridge Passed.[39]
Roseburg Passed.[39]
Veneta Passed.[39]
November 8, 1994 Lake County Passed.[39]

Domestic partnership repeal initiatives[edit]

Election date Locale Outcome
November 6, 1990 Seattle, Washington Failed.[15]
1991 San Francisco Failed.[48]
May 7, 1994 Austin, Texas Repealed.[49]
November 7, 1995 Northhampton, Massachusetts Repealed by a margin of 87 votes.[31]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Faderman, p. 228
  2. ^ "Civil rights, marching forward". Boulder Daily Camera. 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  3. ^ Phelps, Timothy (1995-10-08). "Gay issues split Colorado cities". Eugene Register-Guard (Newsday). p. 8A. Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  4. ^ Rutledge, p. 108
  5. ^ Rutledge, p. 122
  6. ^ Rutledge, pp. 122–23
  7. ^ "Anita's Group Aims to Help Homosexuals". The Ocala (FL) Star-Banner (Associated Press). 1978-06-05. p. 2B. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  8. ^ Shilts, p. 250
  9. ^ Rutledge, p. 129
  10. ^ a b "Income tax cut rejected by voters in California". The Kingman (AZ) Daily Miner (Associated Press). 1980-06-04. p. A3. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  11. ^ Vaid, p. 328
  12. ^ "Tax-limit plans suffer setbacks". Eugene (OR) Register-Guard (Associated Press). 1988-11-10. p. 9A. Retrieved 2008-09-01. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Oregon Goes Democratic!". Ellensburg (WA) Daily Record (UPI). 1988-11-09. p. 11. Retrieved 2009-08-30. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b c MacNamara, Mark (1989-11-09). "Losses alarm gay rights supporters". USA Today. p. 3A. 
  15. ^ a b George, Kathy; Scott Maier (1990-11-08). "Only Tacoma Fails to Back Gay Rights". The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. B2. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  16. ^ Keen and Goldberg, p. 6
  17. ^ "Gay Rights Ordinance Survives Repeal Vote". St. Paul Pioneer-Press. 1991-11-06. p. 1A. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  18. ^ Scherberger, Tom (1992-11-05). "Blame spread for loss of gay rights". St. Petersburg Times. p. 6B. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  19. ^ Murdoch and Price, p.425
  20. ^ Murdoch and Price, p. 455
  21. ^ Murdoch and Price, p. 475
  22. ^ "Initiative, Referendum and Recall: 1988-1995". Oregon Blue Book. Oregon Secretary of State. 4 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  23. ^ Irwin, Julie (1998-10-14). "Law denying gay protection stands". The Cincinnati Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  24. ^ Hrenchir, Tim (2005-02-24). "Legal battles followed passage". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  25. ^ Egan, Timothy (1993-11-04). "The 1993 Elections: Propositions; Ballot Measures on Term Limits and Crime Draw Wide Support". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  26. ^ Terhune, Chad (1994-12-13). "Gainesville repeals gay resolution". The Ocala (FL) Star-Banner (NYT Regional Newspapers). p. 2C. Retrieved 2012-01-14. 
  27. ^ "Answer Is Still No To Ore. Anti-Gay-Rights Measure -- Bid To Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide Up In Air -- Around The Northwest". The Seattle Times (Times News Service). 1994-11-08. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  28. ^ "Group revives anti-gay plan despite vote". The Deseret News (Associated Press). 1995-04-23. p. A15. Retrieved 2009-08-30. [dead link]
  29. ^ Rosza, Lori (1995-01-11). "West Palm Beach Votes To Retain Gay-Rights Law". The Seattle Times (Knight-Ridder News Service). Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  30. ^ "Surprise in Florida". The Advocate. 1995-04-18. p. 10. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  31. ^ a b Dunlap, David W (1995-11-12). "Gay Politicians And Issues Win Major Victories". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  32. ^ "Early Returns Show Miami-Area Voters Upheld Gay Rights Amendment". The Miami Herald. 2002-09-11. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  33. ^ Hrenchir, Tim; Barbara Hollingsworth and Cait Purinton (2005-03-02). "Gay rights ban fails". The Topeka Capital-Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  34. ^ "Gainesville keeps gay rights law". Miami Herald. 2009-03-24. 
  35. ^ "'Yes' wins big in TC non-discrimination vote". Travers City Record-Eagle. 2001-11-08. 
  36. ^ "Anti-discrimination bill results in Anchorage called into question over allegations of voter fraud". Pink News. 2012-04-09. 
  37. ^ a b Kidd, Joe (1993-07-27). "City officials put gay issue on fall ballot". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 1C. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  38. ^ a b c "OCA gets ready to take its battle to 1994 ballots". Eugene (OR) Register-Guard (Associated Press). 1993-11-11. p. 5C. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h Neville, Paul (1995-04-13). "Appeals court deals setback to gay rights foes". Eugene (OR) Register-Guard. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved 2009-08-30. [dead link]
  40. ^ Neville, Paul (1996-06-28). "Gay celebration spotlights victory in Supreme Court". Eugene (OR) Register-Guard. p. 1C. Retrieved 2009-08-30. [dead link]
  41. ^ "A Blue-Collar Town Is a Gay-Rights Battleground". The New York Times. June 14, 1992. p. 35. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  42. ^ "A Blue-Collar Town Is a Gay-Rights Battleground". The New York Times. 1992-06-14. p. 35. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  43. ^ "Gulf veterans may get bonus". The St. Petersburg Times (Associated Press). 1993-05-17. p. 5A. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  44. ^ a b c d e f Egan, Timothy (1993-07-01). "Voters in Oregon Back Local Anti-Gay Rules". The New York Times. p. A10. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  45. ^ a b c d e "OCA: Measure gaining momentum". Eugene (OR) Register-Guard (The Associated Press). 1994-03-24. p. 4C. Retrieved 2009-08-30. [dead link]
  46. ^ a b c d e f g "6 Oregon Cities, 1 County Pass Laws Against Gay Rights". The Los Angeles Times. 1993-09-23. p. A30. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  47. ^ "Oregon: going, going...". The Advocate. 1994-06-28. p. 12. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  48. ^ "Euthanasia, Term Limits Among Key Ballot Issues". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 1991-11-06. p. A14. 
  49. ^ "Austin City Council revisiting domestic partner benefits issue". The Dallas Voice. 2006-02-03. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 

References[edit]

  • Faderman, Lillian (2007). Great Events From History: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Events, 1848-2006. Salem Press. ISBN 1-58765-264-1.
  • Keen, Lisa and Suzanne B. Goldberg (2000). Strangers to the Law: Gay People on Trial. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08645-6.
  • Murdoch, Joyce; Price, Deb (2001). Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court. New York, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01513-1.
  • Rutledge, Leigh (1992). The Gay Decades. New York, Penguin. ISBN 0-452-26810-9.
  • Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-52330-0.
  • Vaid, Urvashi (1995). Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation. New York, Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-47298-6.