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The state of bigoted marriage amendments


Citizens opposed to a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage gather around a computer to view early election returns at a Kansans for Fairness watch party. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel). Leja Wright, left, and her partner, Lauri Conner, are among 19 couples challenging Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

Kansas falls, as yesterday voters have decided to enshrine discrimination into its state Constitution. Gay marriage and civil unions have been banned, and this will likely result in a ton of legal battles. The final, unofficial results from 104 of the state’s 105 counties: 414,235, or 70 percent, voted “yes,” and 178,167, or 29 percent voted “no.”

Here’s an update on marriage amendment efforts around the country. Thirteen states voted in the last election to place a same-sex marriage ban in their constitutions; since then much more has gone on — it’s hard to keep up with all of of the efforts on both sides. Here are a few:

* In January, the high court in Louisiana validated the constitutional amendment passed by voters last September, overruling a lower court which had struck down the vote. The ban had passed overwhelmingly by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin.

* In Indiana, that state’s Court of Appeals also turned back a court challenge to a law forbidding same-sex marriage. In January, the court ruled that heterosexual marriage served a legitimate state interest “in encouraging opposite-sex couples to procreate responsibly and have and raise children within a stable environment.”

* Also in January, Federal District Judge James S. Moody rejected a demand by two lesbians, who were married in Massachusetts, to strike down a Florida law banning same-sex marriage. Ellis Rubin, the attorney for the lesbian couple, has promised to fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

* In New York, a Manhattan trial court ruled that the state’s constitution does not allow marriage to be limited to heterosexual couples. Mayor Mike Bloomberg is in favor of gay marriage, but wants the issue to weave its way up the judicial ladder for a definitive ruling.

* Alabama, Indiana, Virginia and Wisconsin also close to passing similar measures.

* In Idaho, however, a constitutional ban failed to attract enough votes in its Senate.

* States with some form of an amendment effort in progress include Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Tennessee. The Massachusetts amendment effort is unlikely to gain wide support.

North Carolina, my home state, also has an amendment under consideration. The bills were referred to the House Judiciary I Committee and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. In order to become law, the bills would need to pass both the House and Senate with at 3/5 margin, and be approved by a majority of voters on the November 2005 ballot (the House bill) or May 2006 (the Senate bill).

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More information, from the AP:
Court contests: Legal challenges by same-sex couples seeking the right to marry are pending in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Oregon and Washington.

New constitutional bans: Voters passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage last year in 13 states: Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.

Older constitutional bans: Gay marriage bans already existed in the constitutions of four states: Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and Nevada.

Laws that prohibit: The following states have laws on the books (but not in their constitutions) prohibiting gay marriage: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

No laws prohibiting: Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Wyoming have no laws explicitly banning gay marriage.

Civil unions: Vermont bans gay marriage but legalized same-sex civil unions in 2001.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding