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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Defense of Marriage Act targeted in court

MIAMI (BP)–Many legal observers assumed the Defense of Marriage Act wouldn’t be challenged in federal court until same-sex “marriage” was legalized in at least one state.

However, it didn’t take that long.

A Florida lawyer filed a suit in federal court May 12 on behalf of four homosexual couples to overturn the 1996 law that protects the traditional definition of marriage under federal law. While the law does not prohibit a state from legalizing same-sex “marriage,” it does give states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages.”

“We’re not asking for our rights, we’re demanding them,” Cynthia Pasco, one of the plaintiffs, was quoted as saying in the Miami Herald. “We’re no different from any other American couple.”

If the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, the result presumably would be nationwide recognition of same-sex “marriage.” A Massachusetts court ruling legalizing same-sex “marriage” in that state is scheduled to take effect Monday, May 17.

Many legal experts believe that a court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act would be stronger if a couple has a valid marriage license. They could then file suit, seeking recognition of the license in other states. But none of the couples has such a license.

Lawyer Ellis Rubin filed the suit — to the consternation of some homosexual activists who wanted to wait until they had a stronger case.

“I don’t believe in sitting back and letting a steamroller roll over me,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

ORE. BALLOT TITLE APPROVED — The Oregon Supreme Court approved May 13 the ballot title for a proposed state constitutional marriage amendment, providing pro-family leaders in the state a boost in gathering signatures for the required petition drive. The amendment must receive 100,000 signatures by July 2, although pro-family leaders likely will shoot much higher — perhaps as high as 150,000 — to ensure that it qualifies for the November ballot.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge April 22 to the ballot title, and pro-family leaders at the time hoped to hear something from the court within four weeks. The court’s ruling is within that timeframe.

The ACLU now has five business days to ask the court to reconsider.

ORE. JUDGE CLARIFIES — Oregon Judge Frank Bearden has clarified the part of his April ruling on same-sex “marriage” requiring the state to register the marriage licenses of homosexual couples. In a letter to attorneys, Bearden said his ruling requires the state to register the licenses, but not recognize them, a spokesman for state Attorney General Hardy Myers told the Associated Press.

The spokesman said the letter means that the state will not have to provide benefits to the partners of same-sex couples.

CALIF. CONSERVATIVE DIES — William J. “Pete” Knight, who led the effort in the late 1990s to pass a defense of marriage act in California, died May 7 of leukemia. He was 74.

“California has lost a respected pro-family statesman, and it grieves me and others who knew him,” Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families, said in a statement.

A state senator, Knight was diagnosed in April with acute myelogenous leukemia.

LEGAL IN R.I.? — Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch says he will issue an opinion May 17 as to whether the state should recognize same-sex “marriages” from Massachusetts, the AP reported.

Rhode Island, which borders Massachusetts, has no defense of marriage act explicitly banning same-sex “marriage.”

LA. AMENDMENT FALLS SHORT — The Louisiana Senate fell one vote short in passing a state constitutional marriage amendment May 12. Needing 26 votes, it received only 25. Eight senators voted against it.

But the amendment may still pass the Senate. Six senators were absent for the vote, and the sponsor of the bill predicted it will pass in the coming days when it comes up for another vote, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported.

If it passes both the House and Senate, it would go to voters for a fall vote.

LAWSUIT FILED IN SAN JOSE — The Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit May 13 to prevent the city of San Jose, Calif., from recognizing the same-sex “marriages” of its city employees. The San Jose city council voted 8-1 in March to recognize the marriage licenses its homosexual employees receive elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments May 25 in the case involving the city of San Francisco. The court will decide if city officials had the authority to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals. The court, however, is not deciding the issue of the legality of same-sex “marriage.”

DIVORCE LAWYERS TAKE STAND — The board of governors of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – an organization that consists of 1,600 divorce and matrimonial lawyers — passed a resolution in early May opposing a federal constitutional marriage amendment.

“The Constitution should not be used to regulate social mores,” the academy’s president, Richard F. Barry, said in a statement.

The organization has appointed a committee to study the issue of same-sex “marriage.” The committee will make a recommendation as to what should be the organization’s position on same-sex “marriage.” Technically, it has no position.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit

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  • Michael Foust