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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Maryland amendment may be making progress; homosexual groups opposing DOMA challenge?

BALTIMORE (BP)–A Maryland legislator said Jan. 25 he is close to having enough signatures to force a vote on a constitutional marriage amendment in the state House of Delegates, thereby bypassing the committee process, where it likely would stall.

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., a Republican, said he had 44 of the 47 signatures from legislators needed to send the amendment directly to the House floor, the Baltimore Sun reported. The need for the amendment has accelerated since a Maryland state judge Jan. 20 struck down the state’s marriage laws and ordered “gay marriage” to be legalized.

Although some Democrats have called for patience as the ruling is appealed, Dwyer told the Sun the time to act is now.

“To wait for the courts to decide would mean to follow suit with exactly what happened in Massachusetts,” Dwyer said, referring to that state’s highest court issuing an opinion legalizing “gay marriage.”

“I am not going to run the risk of having Maryland follow that.”

If the amendment passes both chambers, it would go before voters.

Democrats have 98 seats in the 141-seat House, Republicans 43. Republicans have tried the past two years to pass an amendment, only to see it either defeated or stalled in committee. In previous years, Democrats said the amendment wasn’t needed because the current law was adequate. But that argument now has holes.

House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, a Democrat, said his party is divided on the issue. Barve told the Sun he opposes the amendment.

“I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel it will help them to have the issue alive,” Barve told the newspaper. “I think there are some very conservative Democrats who feel voting for the amendment is the right thing to do.”

Some Democrats, though, are frustrated that the amendment is even an issue, believing that an amendment on the ballot could help Republicans. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit.

“The far left is playing into the hands of the far right. They’re idiots,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, told the Sun.

‘GAY MARRIAGE’ IN R.I. & VERMONT? — Legislators in Rhode Island and Vermont have introduced bills that would legalize “gay marriage” in those respective states, although they face significant hurdles.

While Vermont already recognizes same-sex civil unions, state Rep. Mark Larson’s bill would expand state law to include “gay marriage,” the Associated Press reported Jan. 25. But Larson, a Democrat, says he doubts it will be adopted, much less debated, this year, AP said.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, state Sen. Rhoda Perry and state Rep. Art Handy — both Democrats — have introduced bills that would redefine marriage to include homosexual couples, AP reported Jan. 24. But the speaker of the house, the senate president and the governor all oppose “gay marriage,” AP said.

COLO. AMENDMENT SIMPLE — A proposed constitutional marriage amendment in Colorado being supported by pro-family leaders would ban only “gay marriage” and leave untouched the issue of same-sex civil unions, the Rocky Mountain News reported Jan. 26. Only 20 words, it reads: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

It would require 68,000 valid signatures to place it on the November ballot. The simplicity of the amendment could make it easier to pass. In addition, its simplicity also could reduce the chances of a successful legal challenge, supporters told the Rocky Mountain News.

HOMOSEXUAL GROUPS OPPOSE DOMA CHALLENGE? — The nation’s leading homosexual groups are trying to stop a California lawyer from challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, but they apparently are having no success, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 23.

Richard Gilbert, a California attorney, is representing a homosexual couple in a challenge to DOMA, and his case currently is before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A lower court ruled against the couple.

Passed in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s “gay marriages.” The law also prevents the federal government from recognizing them. If DOMA is overturned, then all 50 states presumably would be forced to legalize “gay marriage.”

While the leading homosexual groups want to see DOMA eventually struck down as unconstitutional, they believe the federal courts are not yet ready for such a lawsuit, and they have chosen instead to concentrate their efforts on state court cases. Believing that the Supreme Court would uphold DOMA and set a bad precedent for a future challenge, the groups want Gilbert to pull his lawsuit.

“The understanding we have, having done this for a long time, is that some steps lead well to other steps, and if you try to bite off too much all at once then you choke,” Jennifer C. Pizer, an attorney with the homosexual group Lambda Legal, told the Chronicle.

But Gilbert and his clients aren’t buying it.

“This argument they have is unheard of,” Gilbert told the newspaper. “Don’t make the fight for civil rights? Doesn’t that sound wrong? Don’t make the fight for civil rights because we’re afraid we’ll lose? What are they talking about?”

The Ninth Circuit is considered the most liberal appeals court in the land. It has not heard oral arguments in the case. But whatever the Ninth Circuit rules, it likely would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust