CARSON CITY, Nev. (BP) — Voters in Nevada and Arkansas struck down steps deemed inconsistent with and problematic for religious freedom in Nov. 8 midterm elections, while legalizing marijuana passed in two of the five states that considered it.
Nevada voters added gender identity and sexual orientation to freedoms protected in the state constitution, with 57.11 percent of voters approving the Equal Rights Amendment, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske reported .
Arkansans appeared to narrowly defeat a constitutional amendment that would have limited the government from taxing religious freedom “even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” and to limit such action to “the least restrictive means.” too limited. With 97.3 percent of the vote counted, Issue Number 3 or the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment failed with 50.44 percent of voters opposed, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston reported.
Among states that wanted to legalize the use of marijuana, Maryland and Missouri passed the measure, while it failed in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The Nevada constitutional amendment, opposed by religious freedom advocates including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), adds gender identity or expression and sexual orientation to a long list of protected rights, including race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, descent and national origin.
The amendment opens the door to “government-mandated discrimination, inequality and coercion,” ADF said of the measure, saying men who identify as women would be allowed to compete for places on women’s sports teams, women’s scholarships and specifically other opportunities designated for women.
In Arkansas, the state tried to add a measure to the constitution that would provide freedoms that were enacted in the American Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, but did not apply to states. At least 21 states have passed such measures since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the RFRA did not apply to states, according to Ballotpedia.org.
JD “Sonny” Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, hailed the measure as “a wonderful prescription to ensure the health of our society.”
“If passed, the amendment would elevate the language to the state constitution and help protect religious freedom for future generations from the whims and preferences of future elections or politics,” he told Baptist Press before the vote. “It is my sincere hope that the voters of Arkansas value strong protections of religious liberty enough to pass Issue 3.”
Efforts to legalize adult use and possession of marijuana passed in Maryland with 65.54 percent of the vote, and in Missouri with 53.11 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results from the respective secretaries of state.
The Missouri measure applies to adults over 21, imposes a 6 percent tax on the retail price of recreational marijuana, and allows persons convicted of certain marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison and to have their records expunged, according to the measure .
Maryland’s law legalizes marijuana use for adults starting in July 2023 and directs the Maryland legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation and taxation of the substance.
Efforts to legalize marijuana failed in Arkansas with 56.26 percent rejecting the measure, in North Dakota with 54.95 percent against and in South Dakota with 53 percent of voters rejecting the measure, according to the respective secretaries of state.
Five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont—tried to remove outdated racist language authorizing slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for crimes from their constitutions. All succeeded except Louisiana, according to election results from the respective states.
The Louisiana measure failed after its sponsor, Democratic State Representative Edmond Jordan, urged voters to reject it because of the measure’s wording. The Louisiana Black Caucus and Democratic members of the state House also opposed the measure.
“Because of the ambiguity of how it’s drafted, I’m asking that people vote against it so we can clean it up with the goal of bringing it back next year and making sure the language is clear and unambiguous,” Ballotpedia told Jordan. quoted the vote. “Regardless of what happens, we’ll have to bring it back to clear it up anyway.”
In other statewide ballot questions:
- Tennesseans, with 63 percent of the vote, removed an unenforceable constitutional provision barring clergy and priests from serving in the state legislature, Secretary of State Tre Hargett reported.
- Californians rejected two gambling measures, with 70.1 percent of voters rejecting sports betting on tribal lands and 83.3 percent of voters rejecting online sports betting outside of tribal lands, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber reported.