BOSTON (BP)–In a move likely to leave both conservatives and liberals unhappy, the Massachusetts Senate voted Dec. 11 to ask the state’s highest court whether the legalization of civil unions — instead of same-sex “marriage” — would satisfy the justices’ controversial ruling.
Although a compromise, the move will upset social conservatives, who see civil unions as faux marriages, and homosexual activists, who believe the bill creates an unacceptable two-class system.
While the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision Nov. 18 seemed to leave no wiggle room, state senators hope that the passage of civil unions will avoid a political battle over same-sex “marriage.”
A constitutional convention is scheduled for Feb. 11 to debate an amendment banning same-sex “marriage.”
“There are a number of legal experts whose opinions differ on the interpretation [of the ruling],” Senate President Robert Travaglini said, according to the Associated Press.
If the court agrees with the senate’s request, then the debate could shift to one over civil unions. Vermont is the only state yet to legalize civil unions.
But some legal experts express skepticism at the senate’s chances.
In the 4-3 ruling the court said it construed “civil marriage to mean the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others.” The majority also said it agreed with the ruling by Ontario’s Court of Appeal, which legalized same-sex “marriage” in that province.
The Massachusetts court gave the state legislature 180 days to “take such action as it may deem appropriate.”
OHIO NO. 38? — The Ohio House of Representatives passed a defense of marriage act Dec. 10 that would bar recognition of same-sex “marriages” performed out of state and would also prevent the legalization of civil unions within the state. The vote was 69-23.
Senate President Doug White, a Republican, has promised the bill will be given “full consideration,” according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Republican Gov. Bob Taft has said he supports it.
The bill would make Ohio the 38th state with a defense of marriage act — a significant achievement because support from at least 38 states is required to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Conservatives are pushing for an amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage. It would first need approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate.
The Ohio bill would, in part, amend the state code to read: “Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in any other jurisdiction shall be considered and treated in all respects as having no legal force or effect in this state and shall not be recognized by this state.”
Wisconsin’s legislature passed a similar bill in November but Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it.
ACTION IN VIRGINIA — Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a Republican, has drafted a bill that would bar recognition of civil unions performed in other states, according to The Washington Times. The bill will be introduced in the state’s House of Delegates.
While Virginia already has a law banning recognition of same-sex “marriages,” the new law would bar recognition of civil unions, currently legal only in Vermont.
“You can go to Vermont right now and do it, and we’d be hard-pressed not to recognize it,” Marshall said, according to the Associated Press.
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, a Republican, said be believes the bill could pass, The Times reported.
SHELBY SUPPORTS AMENDMENT — Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has signed on as a cosponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, increasing to six the number of Senate supporters. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., is the sponsor.
In the House of Representatives the amendment has 107 cosponsors.
The amendment would add language to the U.S. Constitution protecting the traditional definition of marriage.
STRONG OPINIONS — A Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University poll conducted before the Massachusetts court ruling found that 42 percent of Americans strongly opposed same-sex “marriage” and 10 percent somewhat opposed it. Conversely, 14 percent strongly favored and 13 percent somewhat favored it. Twenty-one percent didn’t know.
The poll of 1,054 adults was conducted Oct. 20 through Nov. 4, and was released Dec. 11.
Opposition to civil unions was weaker: 36 percent strongly opposed, 8 percent somewhat opposed, 18 percent strongly favored and 18 percent somewhat favored. Twenty percent didn’t know.
The poll found that politicians who supported same-sex “marriage” or civil unions might lose support.
Forty percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate who favored legalizing same-sex “marriage,” while 10 percent said they would be more likely and 48 percent said it would make no difference.
The percentages were similar for civil unions: 38 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate who favored civil unions, 10 percent said they would be more likely and 49 percent said it would make no difference.
FLORIDA VOTERS OPPOSED — A new poll shows that by a 66-28 margin Florida’s registered voters oppose the legalization of same-sex “marriage” within the state.
The St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll of 800 registered voters was conducted Dec. 1-3.