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Bishops’ Ballot Measures Fail

November 7, 2012

Voters in five states sent down in flames attempts to legislate preposterous restrictions on reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and religious liberty—measures for which the Catholic bishops had campaigned heavily and spent mightily. These victories in Florida, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington provide important insight into the “Catholic vote.”

Meghan Smith, the domestic program associate at Catholics for Choice who worked closely with Catholics nationwide on these issues, said, “It didn’t matter how much the bishops spent. All of these state contests have proved what polling data already showed us—Catholics overwhelmingly leave the hierarchy’s prepackaged voting guides behind when they enter the voting booth.”

In Florida, Catholics mobilized to defeat Amendment 6, which threatened access to abortion, and 8, which would have jettisoned protections for church-state separation. In the latest reports, the Catholics bishops in Florida spent more than $577,000 to promote the two amendments, while the Knights of Columbus kicked in $100,000 to each of the campaigns—money that could have gone to the very schools and other programs for which Amendment 8 attempted to secure government funding. With more than 4.2 million Florida voters coming down against each of these measures, however, the message was clear: Floridians, including Catholics, weren’t buying what the bishops were selling.

Catholics in Maine, Maryland and Washington State also voted according to the dictates of their consciences, rather than the demands of the bishops, when they contributed to the passage of ballot measures affirming same-sex marriage rights. Catholics in Minnesota also protected the rights of gay and lesbian couples by voting down a ballot measure that would have banned same-sex marriages in the state. Again, efforts to trample religious liberty and civil rights were orchestrated by the state bishops conferences and heavily funded by conservative groups like the Knights of Columbus—which donated $250,000 in Maryland and Washington, $350,000 in Minnesota and over $100,000 in Maine—with the help of bishops from all across the country who lent diocesan funds and support to the campaigns.

Despite the Catholic bishops’ bully pulpit and deep pockets, Catholics across America did the right thing. Catholics voted their conscience and showed clearly that the bishops do not speak for them.