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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Maine pro-family groups now focusing on marriage amendment; conservatives win, lose in state courts

AUGUSTA, Maine (BP)–Having lost a vote to overturn the state’s new “sexual orientation” law, conservatives in Maine now are focusing on passing a marriage amendment to the state constitution.

Maine citizens Nov. 8 voted to keep a new “gay rights” law that gives homosexuality civil rights status and prevents discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing, education and public accommodations. The law had passed the legislature and was signed by the governor, but conservatives gathered enough signatures to force a “people’s veto” that would have rejected the new law. But the veto, known as Question 1, lost by a margin of 55-45 percent.

“Though we are disappointed in the vote on Question 1, we remain committed to marriage as the beautiful and loving union between a man and a woman,” Sandy Williams, chairman of the Coalition for Marriage, was quoted as saying in the Morning Sentinel newspaper. “And we’ll keep working to promote that message and protect the children of the state of Maine.”

But any amendment faces opposition in the state legislature. Just this summer, a marriage amendment fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed in the House of Representatives, failing even to get a simply majority. Fifty-six representatives voted for it, 88 against it. In addition, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci opposes an amendment.

“The governor’s view of amending the constitution is it should only be done to broaden freedoms, not restrict them,” Baldacci spokesman Lee Umphrey said, according to the Morning Sentinel. “At the same time, he has publicly stated he is against same-sex marriage.”

Maine conservative leaders — who fear the new law is the first step toward “gay marriage” legalization — say Baldacci’s position is inconsistent. If the governor is against “gay marriage,” they say, then he should support action opposing it. Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said in his weblog that he would be contacting Baldacci “to discuss how we are going to make sure this scourge doesn’t come to Maine.”

State law says constitutional amendments must initiate within the legislature. Therefore, an amendment cannot be placed on the ballot through the petition process, which conservatives in other states have uses. Nevertheless, Maine conservatives still have a powerful weapon with the “people’s veto.” If the legislature were to pass a “gay marriage” law, conservatives could collect signatures and attempt to reverse it.

ORE. AMENDMENT UPHELD — An Oregon state court judge Nov. 4 upheld the constitutionality of the state’s marriage amendment, dealing homosexual activists there another defeat. Homosexual groups had filed suit, claiming the amendment was unconstitutional because it changed state law in more than one way, banning “gay marriage” on the state level and also preventing local governments from recognizing “gay marriages” performed elsewhere. But Marion County Judge Joseph C. Guimond disagreed.

The amendment passed last November by a margin of 57-43 percent. Conservatives called the lawsuit frivolous; homosexual groups likely will appeal.

DOMESTIC PARTNERS IN ALASKA? — The Alaska Supreme Court Oct. 28 unanimously ruled it is unconstitutional to deny benefits to the partners of publicly employed homosexual couples, the Associated Press reported. The ruling apparently will force the state and cities to provide health insurance and other benefits to their homosexual employees.

But Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski and other Republicans say they will push for an amendment to the state constitution, banning such benefits. Alaska adopted a marriage amendment in 1998.

“In this case, the court has clearly overstepped its bounds,” Becky Hultberg, the governor’s press secretary, told KTUU-TV in Anchorage.

MICH. RULING HALTED — The Michigan Court of Appeals Oct. 31 halted a lower court’s ruling that had said the state’s marriage amendment does not prohibit cities and government agencies from providing health insurance to homosexual partners, AP reported. The appeals court now will hear the case. Republican Attorney General Mike Cox has argued the amendment bans such benefits.

The amendment passed last November by a margin of 59-31 percent. At issue is a section in the amendment that says the “union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

N.Y. COURT SIDES WITH MARRIAGE — A New York appeals court ruled Oct. 27 that New Paltz, N.Y., Mayor Jason West violated state law when he presided over several “gay marriages” in February 2004. In issuing its ruling, the court sided with a lower court that also had ruled West had no authority to conduct the ceremonies.

The lawsuit against West and the city was brought by the conservative group Liberty Counsel on behalf of Robert Hebel, a New Paltz trustee.

“Renegade mayors and rogue public officials do not have the authority to violate clearly established marriage laws,” Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement. “Preserving marriage is the social battle for this generation.”

The court’s ruling did not answer the question of whether “gay marriage” itself should be legal in the state. Lawsuits asking the court to legalize “gay marriage” are making their way through the system and likely will end up before the state’s highest court.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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  • Michael Foust