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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Mass. A.G. certifies marriage amendment; Md. ‘gay marriage’ case gets hearing; Neb. case appealed

BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly OK’d the language of a proposed constitutional marriage amendment Sept. 7, allowing supporters to begin collecting signatures with the goal of placing it on the ballot in 2008.

Homosexual activist groups had hoped Reilly, a Democrat who has sided with them on multiple issues, would refuse certification by ruling the amendment violates the state Constitution. But Reilly refused, saying that while he opposes the amendment, he was bound to follow the law.

“When I was sworn in and I accepted the duties and responsibilities of this office, I took an oath to uphold this constitution and uphold the laws of this Commonwealth, and that oath is very important to me,” he was quoted as saying in The Boston Globe.

The pro-family coalition VoteOnMarriage.org can now begin gathering the 65,000 signatures it must collect within 60 days. Signature gathering will begin Sept. 21 and end Nov. 23.

If the signature goal is reached, the amendment then goes to a constitutional convention, where 25 percent of the legislators must approve it in two consecutive sessions. If legislators do that, it would go before voters in November 2008 — which coincides with the next presidential election. It would require only a simple majority approval by voters.

“We have a large, state-wide network of volunteers who are activated, trained and ready for the task,” Rob Willington, executive director of VoteOnMarriage.org, said in a statement.

Homosexual activists promised to file a lawsuit to prevent the amendment from going to voters.

“We’re extremely disappointed and believe that the attorney general got the law wrong,” Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), said in a statement.

GLAD is the organization that successfully sued to have “gay marriage” legalized in Massachusetts, which remains the only state to recognize such unions.

Reilly’s certification further increases the likelihood that a separate marriage amendment currently before the legislature will be defeated. That amendment, which legislators will consider in a constitutional convention Sept. 14, would ban “gay marriage” while legalizing civil unions. Both conservatives and liberals are actively campaigning for its defeat. If legislators do pass it, it would go before voters in 2006. Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, who supports the 2006 amendment, said Reilly’s certification “dramatically” decreases the chances the 2006 amendment will pass.

By contrast, the proposed 2008 amendment would leave the issue of civil unions untouched. Although it would ban future “gay marriages,” it would allow existing ones to stand. Conservatives who drafted the amendment feared that a stronger amendment — one that banned all “gay marriages” — would be overturned in federal court.

“Furthermore, legislators that are with us on marriage are certain that any amendment nullifying current homosexual marriages would be ‘dead on arrival’ in the State House,” a statement on VoteOnMarriage.org read.

The uniqueness of the 2008 amendment also would prevent opponents from arguing that it would “take away benefits” from couples with existing marriage licenses.

Homosexual activists had sent Reilly a letter, asserting that the Massachusetts Constitution prevents voters from reversing a ruling by the state high court. At issue is Article 48, which was added at a constitutional convention in 1917-18.

But in a 14-page summary Peter Sacks, an attorney in Reilly’s office, said the drafters of Article 48 “clearly meant to allow initiative petitions to amend the words of the constitution in response to a court decision finding a law unconstitutional.”

MD. CASE GETS HEARING — A state judge in Maryland heard oral arguments Aug. 30 in a case seeking the legalization of “gay marriage” there. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of nine homosexual couples.

According to the Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Steven Sullivan told Judge M. Brooke Murdock that marriage laws are the prerogative of the state and not the courts. Murdock gave no indication as to when she would rule.

Unlike a growing number of states, Maryland has not amended its Constitution to ban “gay marriage.” Maryland is one of eight states involved in “gay marriage” lawsuits.

APPEAL IN NEB. — Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning filed a 110-page brief Sept. 1 with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to restore the state’s constitutional marriage amendment, AP reported. In May a lower court judge ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional.

“[Opponents of the amendment] are free to petition state senators to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Plaintiffs are similarly free to begin an initiative process to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, just as supporters … did,” Bruning wrote, according to AP.

The amendment was approved by 70 percent of the voters in 2000.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust