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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Equal Rights Amendment is tied to ‘gay marriage,’ activist says; New Jersey grants first civil unions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Many supporters of the effort to revive the Equal Rights Amendment say the proposal has nothing to do with “gay marriage,” but lesbian activist Julie R. Enszer disagrees.

A writer and a poet, Enszer wrote a Feb. 21 column for Women’s eNews arguing that ERA supporters and “gay marriage” supporters should work together for passage of the amendment. Her column was in response to one on the same website by Idella Moore, an ERA supporter who says the two issues should remain separate.

Enszer argued that the Equal Rights Amendment “has been legally and politically intertwined with marriage-equality issues for many years.”

“The idea that ERA cannot afford to associate itself with marriage equality for same-sex couples overemphasizes the role of gay marriage in the ERA’s past defeat and in doing so provides a foundation that allows and even invites lesbian-baiting to once again divide the women’s rights community,” Enszer wrote. “We lesbians deserve better than that, and so do women’s rights.”

Only one sentence, the Equal Rights Amendment states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Although the amendment seemingly died years ago, it has seen a revival in several states, and on Feb. 7 an Arkansas state legislative committee dealt a blot to supporters by deadlocking at 10-10 on the proposal. Opponents of the amendment argue it will be used to legalize “gay marriage” as well as protect and fund abortion.

The ERA passed in 35 of the required 38 states in the 1970s before a deadline for ratification passed in 1982. But ERA supporters hope a Democratic Congress would accept ratification if three additional states pass it. They likely also would need a favorable Supreme Court ruling.

In a Jan. 17 column, Moore, founder of 4ERA.org, asserted that courts in the past have refused to use ERAs in state constitutions to overturn “gay marriage” bans, since such bans apply “equally to women and men.”

But Enszer disagreed.

“To avoid divisions — both from within the ERA camp and outside it — Moore argued that sexual orientation and sex are different issues that are properly kept apart,” Enszer wrote. “The problem is that sexual orientation and sex are not separable, neither as legal terms nor in terms of people’s lives.”

Enszer noted that a “gay marriage” lawsuit currently before the highest court in Maryland relies on the state’s own Equal Rights Amendment. A ruling could be handed down any day.

“Instead of seeking to extricate the ERA from contemporary legal arguments about marriage equality, let’s honor the history of lesbian’s work for women’s rights,” wrote Enszer, who lives in Maryland with her partner. “Let’s support lesbians in the quest for marriage equality and embrace them fully and openly in the movement to pass the ERA.”

N.J. CIVIL UNIONS LAW TAKE EFFECT — New Jersey became the third state to grant civil unions licenses to homosexual couples when a new law took effect there Feb. 19. It gives same-sex couples the same legal benefits of marriage, although many homosexual activists say it’s just a first step toward “gay marriage” legalization.

“We are not celebrating civil unions as a final step,” Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, told The Boston Globe. “The good news is we believe we are going to win marriage equality in a few years.”

Goldstein and his partner were given a license just past midnight and may have been the first to receive one.

The New Jersey legislature passed the law at the end of last year just weeks after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the state must grant same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage. Vermont and Connecticut also recognize civil unions, while California has something similar but calls them domestic partnerships.

“The things being granted are long overdue and very important to have, so we wanted to take advantage of it as soon as it was available,” Thomas Mannix, a 44-year-old New Jersey man who got one of the licenses along with his partner, told the Associated Press. “But it was also bittersweet because it’s not full marriage. Once a separate class is made, a separate category, we get back to ‘separate but equal,’ which we’ve learned from the past doesn’t work.”

Christian conservatives say civil unions are marriage by another name as well as one more sign of the breakdown of the natural, traditional family. They also oppose them because they are used as a stepping stone to full-blown “gay marriage.” States with “gay marriage” and civil union laws also have seen an increasing number of controversies within schools over the teaching of homosexuality.

SCHWARZENEGGER WOULD VETO BILL AGAIN — Any concern that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had changed his mind about a “gay marriage” legislative proposal was put to rest Feb. 15, when he said he would once again veto such a bill if it passed the legislature.

“No. I wouldn’t sign it because the people of California have voted on that issue,” the Republican told a high school student at a YMCA event, according to The Sacramento Bee.

There had been speculation within the homosexual community that Schwarzenegger had switched on the issue and would sign such a bill, especially since he was just re-elected and is facing a full term. He vetoed a “gay marriage” bill in 2005.

In his YMCA comments, Schwarzenegger pointed to a vote in 2000 in which Californians passed a prohibition on “gay marriage” by a margin of 61-39 percent.

“They should make the decision,” he said. “But it should not be me or the legislature.”

The California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a “gay marriage” case this year.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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  • Michael Foust