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Ala. becomes 20th state to pass marriage amendment

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–Perhaps demonstrating that the protection of the definition of marriage should not be a partisan issue, 81 percent of Alabama voters June 6 approved a state constitutional marriage amendment — an amendment that was placed on the ballot by the legislature and sponsored by two Democrats.

The amendment won handily in every county, making Alabama the 20th state to adopt a constitutional marriage amendment. Those 20 amendments have been adopted with an average of 71 percent of the vote.

Only Mississippi — which passed an amendment in 2004 with 86 percent of the vote — surpassed Alabama’s tally.

“This cultural issue transcended mere partisan politics,” Michael Ciamarra, vice president of the pro-family Alabama Policy Institute, told Baptist Press. “This truly was an issue of our shared common values.

“That [81 percent] is by any measure an astounding victory. … The people of Alabama spoke very, very loudly.”

The legislature passed the amendment last year, although it required voter approval. It breezed through the Senate, 30-0, and the House, 85-7. It was sponsored by two Democrats, state Rep. Yusuf Salaam and state Sen. Hinton Mitchem.

The amendment prevents Alabama courts from forcing the state to recognize “gay marriages,” civil unions or domestic partnerships from other states. It also prevents Alabama courts from legalizing those unions in the state. “Gay marriage” is legal in Massachusetts, while same-sex civil unions are recognized in Connecticut and Vermont. California has same-sex domestic partnerships.

“We have a law that already prohibits same-sex marriage … but because of what other states have done in granting civil unions or domestic partnerships, the Alabama legislature felt it was necessary to protect the state from being forced to recognize these other relationships,” Ciamarra said. “Judicial activism has put us in the posture of pre-emptive strikes to build a firewall around the state of Alabama.”

But Alabama isn’t alone. Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin also are scheduled to vote on similar amendments this year. A handful of other states may follow. Wisconsin, in particular, would be a big win for pro-family groups, since it traditionally has been considered a “blue” state and hasn’t voted Republican since 1984. Two other blue states — Michigan and Oregon — have adopted marriage amendments.

Ciamarra hopes the overwhelming support for the amendment will send a message to Washington, where a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution was defeated in the Senate June 7. Even though the Alabama amendment guards against state court rulings, it is vulnerable in federal court. Nebraska’s marriage amendment was struck down in 2005 by a federal court judge.

“I think it gives a lot of momentum to the … [federal amendment] debate,” Ciamarra said. “[States] feel that this is so important to their people that they’re willing to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in their state constitution.”

The Alabama amendment says, in part:

“Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman. As a matter of public policy, this state has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting this unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children. A marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state.”

The amendment also bans any “union replicating marriage.”
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust