In a resounding, coast-to-coast rejection of gay marriage, voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments Tuesday limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
The amendments won, often by huge margins, in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah and Oregon - the one state where gay-rights activists hoped to prevail. The bans won by a 3-to-1 margin in Kentucky and Georgia, 3-to-2 in Ohio, and 6-to-1 in Mississippi.
"This issue does not deeply divide America," said conservative activist Gary Bauer. "The country overwhelmingly rejects same-sex marriage, and our hope is that both politicians and activist judges will read these results and take them to heart."
The Ohio measure, considered the broadest of the 11 because it barred any legal status that "intends to approximate marriage," gathered equal support from men and women, blacks and whites.
In Georgia, Ohio and Mississippi, gay-rights activists were considering court challenges of the newly approved amendments. But supporters of the bans were jubilant.
"I've said all along that this crossed party lines, color lines and socio-economic lines," said Sadie Fields of the Georgia Christian Coalition. "The people in this state realized that we're talking about the future of our country here."
Conservatives had expected all along that the amendments would prevail in at least 10 of the states, thus demonstrating widespread public disapproval of court rulings in favor of gay couples. National and local gay-rights groups campaigned vigorously in Oregon, where polls had showed a close race, but they failed to prevent a sweep.
"That certainly is disappointing news that many Kentucky voters would think it's appropriate to write discrimination into our constitution," said Beth Wilson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. "People get harmed when their relationships are not respected, and this means that relationships won't be respected."
None of the 11 states allow gay marriage now, though officials in Portland, Ore., married more than 3,000 same-sex couples last year before a judge halted the practice. Supporters of the amendments contend the measures are needed as an extra guard against state court rulings like the one in Massachusetts a year ago that legalized same-sex marriage there.