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As states debate ‘gay marriage,’ consequences of legalization become clear

ST. PAUL, Minn. (BP)–Three left-leaning states went in opposite directions May 11 on the issue of “gay marriage,” the same day that the firing of a Canadian sports TV personality may have served as a warning against its legalization.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions, making the state the eighth to grant homosexual couples all the state legal benefits of marriage except the title.

In Rhode Island, the state House held a public hearing on a bill that would legalize civil unions, although it faced opposition from both sides — from conservatives who view it as a stepping stone to “gay marriage” and from liberals who want nothing short of “marriage” itself. Three states have passed civil unions only later to adopt “gay marriage.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota moved in the opposite direction and a step closer to voting on a constitutional marriage amendment when its state Senate passed such an amendment by a vote of 38-27. If it passes the House, then voters there will decide in 2012 whether to amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Minnesota would join 29 other states that have done so. The timing is significant: A lawsuit seeking to legalize “gay marriage” is winding its way through the state court system.

The three states — all historically liberal — are going in divergent directions because of different political makeups. While Democrats still control the Delaware and Rhode Island legislatures, Republicans — friendlier to social conservatives — took control of the Minnesota legislature in November for the first time in 38 years.

“The institution of marriage predates government and has served as the foundation of society for thousands of years,” Chuck Darrell, director of communications for the Minnesota Family Council, said in a statement. “If marriage is to be redefined, it should only be society, speaking through the electorate, who makes this decision.”

Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority, a conservative group, said the amendment is needed so that the state continues promoting mother-father homes.

“It is in the state’s interest to channel the unique sexual energy of men and women into marriage so that any children produced by those sexual relationships have the best opportunity to be raised by a married mother and father,” Davis wrote in a Star Tribune column.

Conservatives have long argued that “gay marriage” legalization would have negative consequences on religious freedoms, and they may have found another example in Canada, where “gay marriage” is legal and where Sportsnet TV host Damian Goddard was fired the day after he stated his opposition to marriage redefinition in a Tweet.

For days, Canada and the rest of the hockey world had been having a mini-debate over “gay marriage” after New York Rangers forward Sean Avery stated his support for “gay marriage” in an ad, and Uptown Sports Vice President Todd Reynolds, a hockey agent, followed by stating his opposition.

“Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage.’ Legal or not, it will always be wrong,” Reynolds’ Tweet stated. He later Tweeted, “To clarify. This is not hatred or bigotry towards gays. It is not intolerance in any way shape or form. I believe we are all equal.” He added: “But I believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. This is my personal viewpoint. I do not hate anyone.”

Goddard, writing on his personal Twitter account, said Tuesday, “I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.” In another Tweet he wrote, “To all those name-callers… God bless you. And I mean that!” Later he added, “to be clear, damian goddard’s tweets reflect the views of damian goddard. peace, folks!”

His employer, Rogers Sportnet, soon sent out a Tweet stating, “Today’s tweet from Damian Goddard does not reflect the views of Rogers Sportsnet.” The next day, Rogers Sportsnet fired him, The Toronto Star reported. The company says it was not related to his views on “gay marriage,” but Goddard, who is Catholic, told The Star, “The truth will come out.”

Goddard’s firing followed another controversy that combined sports and “gay marriage.” In April Olympic gold medalist gymnast Peter Vidmar signed on as the United States’ “chief of mission” for the 2012 London Olympics. But once it became public that he had donated $2,000 in 2008 to help pass California Proposition 8 and appeared at two rallies in support of it, homosexual groups began pressuring him to step down. Prop 8 reversed a law that had legalized “gay marriage.”

USA Today reported that once the story broke, “reaction was nearly immediate –and almost entirely negative” within the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Vidmar, who is Mormon, stepped down May 6, saying in a statement, “I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.”
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

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