NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Courts in Michigan and Louisiana have given pro-family groups back-to-back victories, ruling that citizens in those two states must be given the chance to vote on constitutional marriage amendments.
In Michigan, a court of appeals panel ruled unanimously Sept. 3 that a marriage amendment must be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot, overturning a decision by the state’s canvassing board.
In Louisiana, the state Supreme Court refused to hear challenges to a state constitutional marriage amendment Sept. 2, clearing the way for voters there to have a say on the issue of same-sex “marriage” Sept. 18.
As many as 12 states could vote on such amendments between now and Nov. 2. Marlene Elwell, chairwoman for the Michigan Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, said the court ruling in her state was “excellent news.”
“I am just grateful that we have three judges that know how to interpret the law rather than rewrite it,” she told Baptist Press. “… Now, the people have the right to debate this issue and vote it.”
Elwell’s group had collected 464,000 valid signatures — significantly more than the 317,000 required. But both Democratic members of the canvassing board voted against certification, resulting in a deadlocked 2-2 vote and leading to the lawsuit. Pro-family groups in Michigan had considered the certification a mere formality.
According to the Associated Press the Michigan appeals court panel ruled that the canvassing board “breached its clear legal duty to certify the petition when it was in the proper form and had sufficient signatures.”
The court decision in Louisiana, which also was unanimous, means that Louisiana will become the second state this year to have a say on the issue of same-sex “marriage.” In August, Missouri voters passed a marriage amendment with 71 percent of the vote.
Mike Johnson of the pro-family legal group Alliance Defense Fund said it was a “great day for democracy.” ADF was involved in the case.
“It was clear that the plaintiffs in this case did not want the people to vote on this issue,” Johnson told BP. “… Frankly, the reason they didn’t want everyone to vote is because they know what the outcome will be. Everywhere this thing is put on the ballot, it prevails by at least 70 percent.”
Supporters of same-sex “marriage” are suing to keep amendments off the ballot in at least three other states — Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio.
“The strategy is pretty simple — they don’t want voters to decide the issue, they would rather a judge do it,” Johnson said. “… Their desperate hope is that a judge will somehow rule to keep it off the ballot.”
The homosexual activist group Forum for Equality had hoped to keep the Louisiana amendment off the ballot and had filed at least three separate challenges. They won on the district court level although that ruling was reversed by a state appeals court, which agreed that the amendment could appear on the ballot. Both appeals courts that took the case sided with amendment supporters.
But the fight over the amendment may continue after the election, when the Forum for Equality likely will challenge the amendment at the Supreme Court level. Johnson said Louisiana law allows challenges up to 10 days after the vote.
Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. gave the Forum for Equality some hope, writing, “The court may yet have to address this constitutional question in a post-election challenge.” Both Calogero and Justice John Weimer said the challenge was premature, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. But five of the seven justices made no comment.
The amendment is expected to pass easily.
“They have to challenge it,” Johnson said, “on the basis of whether the amendment itself violates another pre-existing provision of the constitution, or if the election itself was irregular of fraudulent…. The only thing they conceivably could argue is that this is somehow a violation of the equal protection clause of the Louisiana Constitution, and it clearly is not.”
The Louisiana legislature placed the amendment on the ballot in hopes of strengthening pre-existing law. Although the state has a statute banning same-sex “marriage,” an amendment would go one step further by tying the hands of Louisiana state courts and preventing a Massachusetts-type ruling legalizing same-sex “marriage.”
But Louisiana’s amendment — and other state amendments — can be overturned in federal courts, where Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged. For that reason, President Bush and pro-family groups are supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage