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Hastert says amendment ‘might pass’ House this year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–With the national debate over marriage escalating, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said Feb. 21 that his “best guess” is that a constitutional marriage amendment might pass the House but not the Senate this year.

Hastert was on the West Coast the day after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the state’s attorney general to stop San Francisco from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Two judges have told the city to “cease and desist” but have refused to issue an immediate halt, meaning San Francisco can continue its actions and return to court later to explain them.

“I don’t know of any way it will be solved unless it is with a constitutional amendment which is very, very difficult to enact,” Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said, according to The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

“My guess is that such an amendment might pass the House this year, but not the Senate.”

Hastert also said same-sex “marriage” may have only a federal solution.

“The Defense of Marriage Act was signed by Bill Clinton many years ago and, at that time, it defined this issue,” Hastert said. “Now, however, states like California and Massachusetts have sanctioned gay marriages, which challenge the act, causing it to unravel and making it a federal issue.”

Several events could impact the national debate:

— A new poll by The Boston Globe suggests that a majority of Massachusetts citizens now oppose the legalization of same-sex “marriage.” The poll of 400 adults showed that 53 percent opposed same-sex “marriage,” 35 percent supported it. A Globe poll done in November showed 48 percent in favor of legalization, 43 percent opposed.

“There has clearly been a backlash against the court ruling,” Gerry Chervinsky, president of KRC Communications Research of Newton, which conducted the poll, told The Globe.

Massachusetts legislators are set to meet again March 11 to debate a state constitutional amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage.

— Schwarzenegger told California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to take legal action to stop San Francisco from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Lockyer as saying he resented Schwarzenegger’s order.

However, Lockyer’s office has decided to expedite its reply to San Francisco’s lawsuit against the state, the Chronicle reported. The city is seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex “marriage.”

Asked about Lockyer’s comments, Schwarzenegger remained diplomatic.

“[Lockyer] believes very strongly that this is to be resolved very quickly,” Schwarzenegger said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Feb. 22. “Maybe there’s a little sensitivity in their office there where they really think maybe that the governor should not push him that much. But I felt very strongly that it has to be done now.”

Schwarzenegger is a Republican, Lockyer a Democrat.

— California Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay refused to issue an emergency stay against San Francisco Feb. 20 but did tell the city to “cease and desist” or return to court and defend its action. Several days earlier a different judge also told the city to cease and desist. The city has refused to follow either order.

The Liberty Counsel argued the case before Quidachay on behalf of the Campaign for California Families.

“A line is being drawn in the sand,” Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement. “Marriage between one man and one woman will be preserved. The lawlessness of [San Francisco] Mayor [Gavin] Newsom will hurt his cause and advance the pro-family movement.”

In addition, Quidachay consolidated the two cases that had been pending into one, according to the Liberty Counsel statement.

— New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, issued an advisory letter Feb. 20 saying same-sex “marriages” were illegal in the state. The letter came after Sandoval County -– which is just north of Albuquerque — began issuing licenses to homosexual couples. After receiving the letter the county stopped issuing the licenses, The Albuquerque Tribune reported.

“Until the laws are changed through the legislative process or declared unconstitutional by the judicial process, the statutes limit marriage in New Mexico to a man and a woman,” Madrid said in the advisory letter. “Thus in my judgment, no county clerk should issue a marriage license to same sex couples because those licenses would be invalid under current law.”

New Mexico is one of 12 states without a defense of marriage act explicitly prohibiting same-sex “marriage.”

But San Francisco remains the focus on the national debate — at least until Massachusetts legislators reconvene. In 2000 California voters passed by a margin of 61-39 percent a proposition stating that marriage is between one man and one woman.

“That is the law, so we cannot have all of the sudden now mayors … hand out licenses for various different things,” Schwarzenegger said on NBC. “In San Francisco it’s the licenses for marriage of same-sex. Maybe the next thing is another city that hands our licenses for assault weapons, [and] someone else hands out licenses for selling drugs. We cannot do that. We have to stay within the law.”

Meet the Press host Tim Russert asked Schwarzenegger if he would consider calling on the state police to stop California officials.

“I don’t think there will be a need for that, Tim,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think it will be resolved.”

Schwarzenegger also was asked his position on a bill in the California legislature that would legalize same-sex “marriage.” He did not answer the question, saying he does not deal with “hypotheticals.”

Asked about the events in California, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Feb. 23 “these events are certainly having an influence on [President Bush’s] decision” whether to support a constitutional amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage.
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  • Michael Foust