Same-Sex Marriage Referendums: Major Metropolitan Areas Out of Step With Less Populated Regions

In most states same-sex marriage has become the law of the land by judicial decision. In a smaller number, the institution has been recognized by acts of the state legislature. Although there were numerous public referendums attempting to ban same sex marriage before 2008, in recent years only twice have the voters of a state had the opportunity to vote directly on the recognition of marriages between individuals of the same gender.

Both opportunities came in November 2012, as voters in Maryland and Washington State confirmed their state’s recognition of a new definition of marriage. However, both episodes revealed a sharp divide between the majority views of those who live in major metropolitan areas and those who live in less densely populated areas.

The Maryland referendum, like the one in Washington, was actually an effort, permitted under the laws of both states, to overturn an earlier statute. In February of 2012, the Maryland General Assembly narrowly approved a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act. The bill was enacted by votes of 72-67 in the House of Delegates and 25-22 in the Senate and subsequently signed on March 1 by Governor Martin O’Malley.

However, by June, opponents of the bill had secured enough signatures to place the issue on the state’s ballot the following November.

The effort to override the legislation ultimately failed by a margin of 52.4% to 47.6%, but the geographic breakdown of the vote revealed that 18 of the state’s 24 counties actually voted to overturn the same-sex marriage statute. All six of the counties in which the repeal measure failed were located either in metropolitan Baltimore or metropolitan Washington, D.C. Even in these metropolitan areas, an equal number of counties (six) voted to overturn the law. The measure even carried in predominantly black Prince Georges County, which is part of the D. C. suburbs. (Overall, exit polls suggest that a majority of black Marylanders voted to override the statute.)

In the state’s twelve counties that are not part of either metropolitan Washington or Baltimore, the referendum to overturn the statute received the support of substantial majorities, and in seven of the twelve support for overturning the statute ranged from 60.9% to 73.1% of voters. The largest majorities were compiled in the rural, largely white, counties of Appalachian western Maryland and in the rural, racially-mixed counties of the Eastern Shore.

The largest majorities in support of the statute were compiled in suburban Washington’s Montgomery County, in the City of Baltimore (which is effectively a separate county in Maryland), and Howard County, which includes the suburbs south of Baltimore.

Outside of the six counties that supported the same-sex marriage statute, the combined vote in Maryland was 54.9% to overturn the statute and 45.1% to uphold it. In the twelve counties that were not part of the Washington or Baltimore metropolitan areas, the percentages were 59.5% to overturn the statute and 40.5% to uphold it. (Of course, a decade earlier, who would have believed that 40% of the voters in rural Maryland would support same-sex marriage?)

The November 2012 referendum was part of the same election that saw Maryland cast 62.1% of its votes for Barack Obama for president and only 36.6% for Mitt Romney. In only five other jurisdictions—District of Columbia, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—did the re-elected president do better than he did in Maryland.

The story in Washington State is a similar one. A bill recognizing same-sex marriage passed the Washington Senate by a vote of 28-21 on February 1, 2012, and the state House of Representatives by 55-43 on February 8. Five days later the bill was signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire. However, as in Maryland, opponents of the law gathered enough signatures to force a statewide referendum on the new statute.

On November 6, in what was officially designated as Referendum 74, Washington voters upheld the statute by a margin of 53.7% to 46.3%, a difference slightly larger than in Maryland.

As in Maryland, the large population of the state’s major metropolitan area overrode the wishes of the largest part of the state, at least in geographic terms. Twenty-nine of the state’s 39 counties voted to override the legislature—and 15 by margins of better than 60%-40%–but their votes were offset by those of the other ten, nine of which bordered on the Puget Sound in western Washington.

In King County (which includes Seattle), the same-sex marriage bill passed by a margin of 67% to 33%. In the other nine Puget Sound counties, a majority of voters supported the bill, but the margin was a much closer 52.7% to 47.3%. However, in the other 29 counties, the margin on Referendum 74 was 58.1% to 41.9% to overturn the statute.

As in Maryland, one could argue that it is remarkable that in 2012, slightly more than 40% of the population of the “conservative” parts of Washington State were willing to support the concept of same-sex marriage. In 2012, President Obama won Washington State over Mitt Romney by a margin of 56% to 41%.

More than five decades ago, the “one-person, one-vote” rulings of the Warren Court, especially Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, dramatically shifted the balance of political power from rural to urban areas in many states. The same-sex marriage “referendums” in Maryland and Washington are reminders of how significant those decisions continue to be.

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Is it Time to Bring Back the Marquette Law School Baseball Team?

Vintage BaseballEvery now and then the debate over whether or not Marquette should re-establish its varsity football team gets revived. Once a respected participant in the highest level of college football, Marquette unceremoniously dropped football in 1960. (See also here.)

In spite of its long tradition in sports law, it is a not well known fact that our law school once had its own baseball team. In his The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City from Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 (p. 324), Milwaukee historian Dennis Pajot notes that in 1895, a team called The Milwaukee Law Class competed with the city’s other amateur teams.

The Milwaukee Law Class, organized by the city’s law students in 1892, was Milwaukee’s first law school. In the mid-1890’s, its name was changed to the Milwaukee Law School, and in 1908, it was acquired by Marquette University. This is why the law school celebrated its centennial in 1992. (A second centennial celebration in 2008 marked the 100th anniversary of Marquette’s acquisition of the Milwaukee Law Class/School.)

Unfortunately, we do not know very much about the 1895 team, except that the scores of some of its games were listed in Milwaukee newspapers that year. It is, of course, possible that the team began play before 1895, but with a lower profile. If it did originate before 1895, it seems likely that one of the founders and original players on the Law Class team would have been Walter Schinz.

Schinz (born 1874) was one of the founders of the Law Class in 1892 and later a prominent 20th century Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge. He was also was an avid baseball player during his youth and an enthusiastic fan of the national pastime until his death in 1957. Schinz’ Milwaukee Sentinel obituary devoted much of its content to the judge’s life-long love of baseball that began as a sandlot player in Milwaukee in the 1880’s.

There is no reason to believe that the Milwaukee Law Class baseball team was an exceptionally powerful club. At that point, the school probably had somewhere between 20 and 40 students, some of whom were probably fairly athletic but many of whom were probably not. The fact that there is no record of the team after 1895, suggests that its success was probably limited.

In contrast, the Milwaukee Medical College baseball team, which played from at least 1894 into the early 20th century, appears to have been a more powerful club. (The Milwaukee Medical College was an independent medical school which opened in 1894 and was taken over by Marquette University in 1907.)

In 1901, the Medical College team was a solid enough amateur club to have played the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers in an exhibition game just before the opening of the 1901 major league season. (The Brewers apparently won the game in a convincing fashion.)

The 1901 season was the first year that the American League played as a major league, and the Brewers were one of its original eight teams. Unfortunately, a disappointing last place finish (48-89) and a league low attendance record led to the team being transferred to St. Louis in 1902, where the Brewers became the ill-fated St. Louis Browns (who are now the Baltimore Orioles).

After the 1908 acquisition of the Milwaukee Law School by Marquette University law students were eligible to play on the Marquette varsity team, and a number, including future sports lawyer and Congressman Ray Cannon, apparently did.

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Marquette University Law School and World War II

B-17_Flying_FortressAs I have described elsewhere on this blog, Marquette Law School Dean Francis X. Swietlik played a prominent role in public affairs during the Second World War, primarily because of his leadership role in the American Polish Community. As the leader of the “Chicago Poles,” as Midwesterners of Polish descent were known, Swietlik advised President Franklin Roosevelt on Polish issues and was a national spokesman for the cause of his ancestral country — Swietlik had been born in Milwaukee in 1899 — which had been dismembered in 1939 by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

However, the war was hardly kind to the law school, as its enrollment quickly shriveled as potential law students found themselves in military uniforms.

During the 1940-41 academic year, the law school appeared to be prospering with an enrollment of 225 students, all but eight of whom were males. (One of the male students was Emeritus Professor James Ghiardi, who was then a second year law student.)

Although United States involvement in the War would not come until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the institution of the military draft and the darkening clouds on the horizon led to a decline in students in the fall of 1941, as the total enrollment dropped to 187 students. Female enrollment dropped from eight to six.

When the United States declared war that December, the law school greatly accelerated its academic calendar, which originally extended into June, so that as many of the current third-year students as possible could finish law school before being inducted into the military. Professor Ghiardi graduated just days before entering military service.

By the beginning of the 1942-43 academic year, the number of the students at the law school had dropped by more than 50% to just 85 students, and to just 77 male students. The situation got even worse after that, as enrollments for 1943-1944 and 1944-45 were only 44 and 42 students respectively.

To deal with the dramatically smaller classes, the law school cut the size of its faculty and moved to a three-semester-a-year format that allowed students to complete the law school course in just twenty-four months. Many of those who did enroll at the law school during the War were ineligible for military service. For example, James D’Amato of Waukesha at 5’1” was too short for military service, while his classmate Clifford Thompson, who was reportedly over 8 feet tall, was both too tall and too old to be drafted. Thompson, who had a successful career in Hollywood as an actor and as a performer with a number of circuses prior to law school, achieved the distinction of being the tallest lawyer in American history after his admission to the Wisconsin bar in 1944. For more on Thompson’s remarkable career, see my earlier post.

One might have thought that the onset of the war would have led to an increase in the number of female law students, but that did not happen at Marquette, as female enrollment amounted to only 5 students in 1943-44 and only 6 in 1944-45.

Moreover, the end of the war did not result in an immediate influx of new students into Marquette and other law schools. World War II did not officially end until the Japanese formally surrendered on September 2, 1945, and the logistics of demobilization made it impossible for many soldiers who wanted to pick up their lives by going to law school to enroll in time for the fall 1945 semester.

In 1945-46, enrollment at the Marquette law school did increase, but not as dramatically as one might have thought. The number of students climbed from 42 to 93 (including 11 women) but the deluge was yet to come.

The following year, 1946-1947, saw the floodgates open as 332 students, including 8 women, enrolled in the law school, which set a new all-time record for the institution.

To facilitate the movement of these former G.I.’s into the legal profession as quickly as possible, the law school preserved the three-semester format, and allowed students to enter the law school at any one of the three semesters, as students had been allowed to do during the war. It would not be until 1950 that the law school would return to the more traditional two-semester, three-year format.

A follow-up post will deal with the demolition and reconstruction of the law school faculty during the World War II era.

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