Haggard Sex Allegations Could Shape Votes, Political Observers Say
But Which Side of the Colorado Debate on Gay Marriage Might Benefit Is Anyone's Guess
By Karen E. Crummy and Kevin Simpson
Denver Post [Colorado]
November 2, 2006
Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard is only alleged to have had a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute, but in politics, even a hint of something like that can be enough to sink a campaign.
The potential scandal may be enough to affect Tuesday's vote on the state constitutional ban on gay marriage or the domestic-partnerships initiative, some political watchers say. But who might benefit is anybody's guess.
Especially since gay marriage and benefits are usually bedrock issues and not prone to wavering opinions.
"Does this reinforce the liberal position of partnerships, or does it reinforce conservatives, who are saying we want less of these threats?" said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. "There are some people - but not very many - who are undecided, and this news could affect their vote."
A recent Denver Post poll showed that voters were ready to ban gay marriage but endorse legal benefits for same-sex couples.
Many voters in Colorado have already cast absentee ballots or voted early, making the controversy somewhat less of a factor, said GOP political consultant Katy Atkinson.
Coloradans for Marriage, which has overseen the campaign for Amendment 43 to ban gay marriage, issued a brief statement.
"This is a difficult situation for Pastor Haggard and his family," said executive director Jon Paul. "However, we will not let this distract us with our efforts to pass the Colorado marriage amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman."
But the percolating charges may have the effect of neutralizing any pro-marriage reverberations from the recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, said Dan Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. That court decision, which mandates legalization of either marriage or civil unions for gay couples, was seized by proponents of the gay-marriage ban as evidence of "activist judges" threatening traditional marriage.
The allegations regarding Haggard, a key member of the coalition that drafted Amendment 43, raise what Smith called "the H-question: hypocrisy."
"I'm not sure how that plays out in ballot issues, but as one of the proponents and drafters, it's the scarlet letter H that can affect that campaign," said Smith, who tracks ballot issues nationwide.
"The story will have legs carrying it through the election and, whether the allegations are born out or not, it will have the effect of moving attention away from that ballot issue," he added.
Focus on the Family, which has pushed and helped finance the campaign for the marriage amendment, had no comment on how the Haggard situation might affect the outcome of the gay-marriage ban on Election Day, said Gary Schneeberger, the group's public policy media director.
"The situation appears to be very fluid, so we're going to keep our eyes open, and if we have anything to say in the days to come, we'll say it," he said.
Campaigns opposing Amendment 43 and supporting domestic partnerships called the flap irrelevant to their battles and declined to comment further.
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