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ELECTION 08: Conn. conservatives have one chance to overturn ‘gay marriage’ ruling

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a special series of stories focusing on the election that Baptist Press will run between now and Nov. 4. Stories will run on Wednesdays and Fridays.

HARTFORD, Conn. (BP)–Some in Connecticut are calling it ironic, others providential. Whatever the case, when voters there go to the polls Nov. 4, they will consider a once-every-two-decades question on whether to call a constitutional convention — a vote that could lead to the reversal of the state high court’s Oct. 10 ruling legalizing “gay marriage.”

Conservatives can thank the Connecticut constitution, which requires its citizens to vote every 20 years on whether to consider changes to the document — a vote that happens this year. Opponents of “gay marriage” believe such a vote couldn’t be occurring at a better time.

If a majority of people vote yes on Question 1, as it is called, then a constitutional convention will be held within one year, and the entire document will be open to amending. Any proposed amendments will then go before voters within two months of the convention being adjourned.

“We expected all along that this [gay marriage] decision would be against us. My greatest concern was that the ruling would not come down until after Election Day,” Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which supports Question 1, told Baptist Press. “This is very likely our only opportunity to undo the damage that the court did — and to restore our basic right to self-governance in Connecticut.

“We have one of the more far-left legislatures in the country, and even [a] legislature this liberal has voted year after year after year to say no to same-sex marriage.”

The Family Institute of Connecticut has joined with several groups, including those supporting tax and eminent domain reform, to back Question 1. The groups hope to amend the constitution to allow direct initiatives in the state — that is, the ability of citizens to gather signatures to place proposed initiatives on the ballot. Such a change to the constitution would allow the Family Institute of Connecticut to gather signatures to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot.

“Most states allow their citizens some sort of direct say over their laws,” Wolfgang said. “Connecticut is one of only 19 states that does not allow any form of direct initiative. We’re fighting just to have the right to have the sort of remedy that they have in California, where you can gather so many signatures and put a measure directly on the ballot.”

The majority of hot-button items on state ballots this year — including votes on marriage amendments in California and Florida, embryonic stem cell research in Michigan and abortion in South Dakota — were placed there via direct initiative.

As it stands now, any constitutional amendment in Connecticut must come first from the state legislature, whose leaders have expressed opposition to an amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Massachusetts — which saw its high court legalize “gay marriage” — also does not have direct initiative.

If Question 1 fails, then “gay marriage” likely will remain legal in Connecticut for good. The proposal asks, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the state?”

The slate of delegates to the convention must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature. Wolfgang is confident that enough delegates will back direct initiative.

“There are many legislators — even some on the left — who even if they disagree with us on marriage, they at least agree on the need for a right to direct initiative,” he said. “There are many legislators who feel that we need that law because the system’s broken…up at the state capitol. Even before this court decision, many legislators on both the left and right had concerns about the system that we have at the state capitol, where a few key chairmen can keep a bill from receiving a vote — even if 100 legislators do want it to pass. Almost everything hinges on the yes vote on Nov. 4. We’re talking about our basic right to self-governance.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press. For more information about Question 1 and how to supports its passage, visit www.Ctfamily.org.

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  • Michael Foust