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Judge allows marriage amendment to stay on Tenn. ballot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Tennessee state court judge Feb. 23 dismissed a lawsuit by a liberal interest group in ruling that a proposed state constitutional marriage amendment can remain on the ballot there this fall.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the amendment, arguing that the Tennessee legislature had not properly published the amendment in newspapers across the state.

Constitutional amendments in the Volunteer State must pass in two consecutive sessions. According to the state constitution, an amendment, after passing the first time, must “be published six months” prior to the election of the next legislature. The ACLU said the amendment was published in newspapers only four and a half months prior to the election.

But Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, the judge in the case, said the amendment’s coverage in the media fulfilled the constitutional requirement.

“The court concludes that this actual, although not official, publication comes within the broad and general wording of the Constitution,” Lyle wrote. “Thus, in this case media coverage cured the General Assembly’s default in publication.”

The amendment would protect the natural definition of marriage, preventing Tennessee state courts from legalizing “gay marriage.” Legislatures in four other states — Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina and South Dakota — also have placed amendments on the ballot for 2006. Other states, including Virginia, almost certainly will follow. Nineteen states have adopted such amendments.

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund, which defended the amendment in court, applauded Lyle’s decision.

“What we’re really discussing here is whether we’re going to let political special interest groups or the law define marriage,” ADF attorney Byron Babione, who argued the case, said in a statement. “The ACLU’s lawsuit was nothing more than a veiled attempt to use a technicality to stop the will of the people. The court’s ruling today upheld the right of the people to be heard.”

It is not known if the ACLU will appeal.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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