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US voters to rule on porn, pot and gay marriage


The world’s attention may be focused on the tight US presidential race, but on Tuesday Americans will also weigh in on hundreds of local referendums on issues ranging from same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana, to condom use by porn stars.


The attention of an entire nation –and much of the world- will be fixed this week on an election duel in which Republican challenger Mitt Romney hopes to unseat US President Barack Obama. But when Americans draw the curtains in ballot booths across the country on Tuesday, they will also be confronted with hundreds of other choices in the form of local referendums.

Millions of voters are being asked to take sides on more than 170 different propositions, questions and initiatives that are specific to their own states and, in some cases, to their cities on November 6.

Many state-wide referendums this year are tackling prickly political and social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, while other ballot questions are on less divisive subjects.

In contrast to the tone of the main event, defenders and detractors of proposed measures are not always easily divided into Democrat and Republican camps. Nevertheless, these advocates are making impassioned pleas to voters.

Same-sex marriage and marijuana on the table

EqualityMain, a pro-same-sex marriage advocacy group in the northeastern US state has successfully petitioned for the question “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” to appear on state ballots. If a majority of voters answer “Yes”, the measure would overturn a voter-approved 2009 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in Maine.

On the same controversial issue, referendums in the northeast state of Maryland and Washington DC will allow voters to potentially strike down standing legislation that currently allows civil marriages between same-sex couples. A fourth ballot referendum in the northern state of Minnesota could limit the definition of marriage in the Minnesota Constitution as “between one man and one woman”.

New Approach Washington is a Seattle-based organisation that says fighting against marijuana use among adults wastes precious police resources. It is behind Initiative-502, a state ballot measure that would legalise marijuana in the state of Washington and put the state’s liquor board in charge of regulating cannabis sale and distribution in the future.

Washington’s neighbouring West coast state of Oregon, as well as the mountain state of Colorado, are similarly considering initiatives that would legalise marijuana and bring its production and sale under state control.

A ballot initiative in the northeast state of Massachusetts would make marijuana legal for medical purposes, while an initiative in northwestern Montana could revoke a medical marijuana measure approved in the state in 2004. In addition, five ballots are considering the legalisation or decriminalisation of marijuana at the county level in the state of Michigan.

Besides gay marriage and marijuana legalisation, the hot-button issues of abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia are also being submitted for the consideration of voters in isolated state ballots.

Supporters of the Florida Abortion Amendment, or Amendment 6, want to change the state’s law in order to prohibit the use of public funds for abortions except to save a mother's life. They also want to ensure parental consent of children seeking an abortion in the sunshine state.

High-profile California officials, including Los Angeles mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, have rallied behind Proposition 34, which if approved would eliminate the death penalty in the state. On the opposite end of the country, the Massachusetts "Death with Dignity" Initiative, or Question 2, would allow for a terminally ill patient to be given lethal drugs.

Offbeat but on the ballot

There are also less controversial referendums on Tuesday’s ballots, and a handful that may seem downright strange. If the Los Angeles Porn Actors Required to Wear Condoms Act, or Measure B, is approved in Los Angeles County, actors employed by the state’s highly profitable adult film industry will be required to wear condoms on camera. The non-profit group AIDS Healthcare Foundation and several former porn performers have spearheaded the measure.

The group North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty has fought hard to get the North Dakota Prevention of Animal Cruelty Initiative, or Measure 5, into the state’s poll. If approved, Measure 5 will make it a felony to maliciously harm a dog, cat or horse in the northern state. Agricultural workers, scientific researchers and hunters would be exempt from the law.

The state of Oregon earns special distinction this year for its seemingly quirky ballot initiatives. Voters in the state are being asked to weigh in on whether to break Native American tribes’ monopoly on operating casinos, and on improved grammar and spelling to the state’s constitution.

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