BOSTON — Voters nationwide want to safeguard marriage, according to results from the Nov. 7 elections.

Constitutional amendments protecting marriage as a man-woman union have now passed in a majority of states. This year’s general elections saw such amendments pass in seven states: Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin all approved bans on same-sex “marriage.”

Combined with such action from previous elections, that brings the total of states with such measures to 27.

In Arizona, the ballot question apparently lost by a small margin, but a final count of 340,000 absentee ballots — not expected until Nov. 19 — could still tip that outcome, said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference.

Presently, 41 states also have marriage protection statutes, but the constitutional measures give added security.

“When people are asked, they naturally know what is and what is not a marriage. But, of course, the proponents of radical redefinition much prefer to work their purposes through the courts,” said Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of the religion and public policy journal First Things. He called the amendments’ popularity “further evidence that it is simply defeatism to say that the struggle for marriage as defined by reason and history is lost.”

Said Jeff Caruso, Virginia Catholic Conference executive director: “Given the decisions that courts in some other states have imposed on their citizens with no public input, Virginians clearly appreciated the opportunity to decide this matter for themselves.”

In Massachusetts, however, the only state to allow same-sex “marriage,” voters will not get that chance in the foreseeable future. On Nov. 9, two days after the general election, the state Legislature, in a scripted political maneuver, effectively killed a citizen-sponsored amendment that would have allowed voters to define marriage.

The state’s four Catholic bishops supported the amendment, which could have reversed the disenfranchisement imposed in 2003 when the state supreme court decided homosexual “marriage” should go forward. Gov. Mitt Romney did not challenge that ruling and allowed licenses to be issued. The state still has no law mandating such unions, but more than 8,000 ceremonies have taken place since then.

“The best thing would have been if Romney had just said No to the court, which I believe he had every authority to resist,” said Stephen Krason, director of political science at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

That view is shared by other legal experts (for a review of the argument, see  MassResistance.org).

However, a spokesman for the governor told the Register in April that Romney disagreed with the court and was “working within the law to overturn that decision.”

The outgoing governor and presidential hopeful will now be unlikely to insist that the Legislature face the issue. In a strategic move, lawmakers did not adjourn without voting on the issue, but to the cheers of homosexual activists, they recessed until Jan. 2, the last day of their legislative session. Had they adjourned instead, Romney could have ordered them back.

“The institution of marriage cannot be changed by judicial fiat or political trickery,” said Larry Cirignano, executive director of Catholic Citizenship, a member of the coalition that sponsored the marriage amendment. He said marriage supporters would urge Romney to address legislators’ ignoring their constitutional mandate to vote.

Consistent Support

Scenarios like this should mobilize citizen activism for marriage protection amendments in states without them, Krason predicted.

A case in point is New Jersey, where marriage is now under the gun. Although that state supreme court did not find a right to same-sex “marriage” in its constitution, on Oct. 25 it ordered the Legislature to guarantee “equal marriage rights” to homosexuals within 180 days.

Executive Director Patrick Brannigan vowed the New Jersey Catholic Conference would work “to ensure marriage is not redefined.”

Political analysts speculated that while the New Jersey decision apparently did not sway the Senate race there (Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez, who supports civil unions, won), it may have mobilized voters in other states.

“The ruling reminded them that activist judges can impose same-sex marriage at will,” said Colleen Carroll Campbell, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and host of EWTN’s television show “Faith & Culture.”

“But I think the same-sex ‘marriage’ bans would have passed anyway in these states,” Campbell said. “The margin of victory was comfortable in most cases, with the bans garnering an average of nearly two-thirds support. That is consistent with what we have seen in the past. Despite activist judges, weak-kneed politicians and media vilification of the movement to protect marriage, the American people are remarkably consistent in their support for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Campbell, who is also the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.

“Gay marriage” bans aside, the election results do not bode well for a preservation of traditional marriage, she noted. The speaker of the House, Catholic Democrat Nancy Pelosi, “openly supports same-sex ‘marriage,’” Campbell said, and predicted the new Senate Democratic majority will likely quash any attempts to pass a federal marriage amendment.

“And a Democratic Senate spells trouble for any judicial nominees who fail to toe the party’s line on abortion and social issues,” she said. ”So the Supreme Court’s penchant for inventing new rights may soon extend to a ‘right to same-sex marriage’ if a marriage lawsuit hits the Supreme Court soon, and President Bush cannot push through new appointees who share his values.”

A federal marriage amendment would be the best protection in the long run against a legal challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to Stanley Kurtz, a fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Meanwhile, expect legislative pushes in states where homosexual activists were emboldened by election results, said Steubenville’s Krason. In New York, for example, Democratic Governor-elect Elliot Spitzer has promised to bring in same-sex “marriage.”

“I don’t think it will necessarily go over with voters, though. Many people are put off by it,” Krason said.

However, public opinion can be swayed when the message is warped by big money and the media. Arizona’s problem was largely due to “patent distortion,” said Johnson, of the state Catholic conference. The opposition implied that unmarried heterosexual couples might lose health benefits because the measure would not have allowed domestic partnerships equivalent to marriage. “We had to try to protect marriage in more than name only,” Johnson said. “We can’t give up.”

That message was echoed in Massachusetts. “The Church will be in the battle to defend marriage until Christ comes again,” said Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in New Bedford. “Faithful Catholics are called to persevere. The only way we’ll lose in the long run is if we give up.”

Gail Besse is based

in Hull, Massachusetts.