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MARRIAGE DIGEST: N.J. appeals court hears ‘gay marriage’ case; traditionalists win in N.Y.; activists changing strategy?

TRENTON, N.J. (BP)–The New Jersey appeals court heard arguments Dec. 7 in a case that could result in same-sex “marriage” legalization in the state.

The three-judge panel tossed tough questions at each side and gave no indication as to how or when they might rule.

But whatever they decide, the case likely will end up before the left-leaning New Jersey Supreme Court — the same court that in 1999 ruled that the Boy Scouts could not prevent homosexuals from becoming troop leaders. That decision eventually was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Including New Jersey, nine states are defending their laws in court against those seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage.” Two cases — New Jersey’s and Washington state’s — are being watched closely by pro-family groups. The Washington state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a same-sex “marriage” case in March, while the New Jersey high court potentially could hear its case by the end of 2005.

The New Jersey case was brought on behalf of seven homosexual couples by Lambda Legal, a homosexual activist legal organization.

“We don’t believe there is any legitimate reason to deny equal treatment to same-sex couples in New Jersey, and we hope lesbian and gay couples will soon have the critical protections that only marriage provides,” David Buckel, director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project, said in a statement.

During oral arguments the judges asked Buckel if the legalization of same-sex “marriage” could lead to polygamy.

“The specter of polygamy and incest has come up each time the definition of marriage has changed — when the ban on interracial marriage was dropped,” Buckel said, according to the Trenton Times. “Polygamy and incest did not flourish in judicial doctrine afterwards, and that’s because courts can draw these lines in support of the interests of the state.”

But Assistant Attorney General Patrick DeAlmeida — who defended the state’s current marriage laws — asserted that polygamists logically could ask for the recognition of multiple spouses.

“You’re saying that’s a slippery slope,” Judge Donald G. Collester said.

“Yes, your honor,” DeAlmeida responded, according to the Times.

DeAlmeida, though, also got some tough questions.

“Putting traditions aside, isn’t the state really running out of rationales for excluding same-sex couples from marrying?” Judge Anthony J. Parrillo asked.

“The rational basis is to maintain our traditional definition of marriage,” DeAlmeida said, according to the Times.

DeAlmeida argued that New Jersey’s domestic partnership law, which grants homosexual couples many of the legal benefits of marriage, is sufficient in addressing the complaints brought by the plaintiffs.

“It’s outside judicial authority to start redefining marriage,” DeAlmeida said, according to the Times. “The legislature has made a concerted effort to protect same-sex couples in this state. And the legislature’s decisions should be respected by this court. There is nothing in constitutional history to allow the judicial to override the other branches in this case.”

Unlike most other states, New Jersey has no law specifically banning same-sex “marriage.” This year voters in 13 states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex “marriage” — with the hopes of preventing courts in those states from doing what New Jersey’s possibly could do.

On the national level, pro-family leaders are pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, noting that state amendments are vulnerable in federal court. Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged in federal court.

PRO-FAMILY WIN IN NY — For the second time in recent months, a New York state judge ruled Dec. 7 against homosexual activists by refusing to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

Justice Joseph C. Teresi said current state marriage laws do not violate the state constitution. In October, another judge made a similar ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit that was heard before Teresi, said it would appeal. The ACLU is representing 13 homosexual couples.

The ACLU suit is but one of several same-sex “marriage” lawsuits in New York. The state has no law explicitly banning same-sex “marriage.”

“Basically, the judge said that the critical questions of whether all people have a fundamental right to marry or whether the government is justified in excluding same-sex couples from marriage, should be decided by a higher court,” James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, said in a statement. “It’s not terribly surprising that a lower court judge would rule this way.”

Teresi sits on the State Supreme Court, which in New York is the lowest of the state’s three judicial levels.

ACTIVISTS CHANGING STRATEGY? — Homosexual activists may be re-thinking their strategy in light of Election Day losses.

Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest homosexual activist group — resigned in late November after being on the job less than one year.

HRC and other organizations are debating whether the push for same-sex “marriage” led to a backlash at the ballot. President Bush was re-elected, despite the fact that HRC and similar groups led an unprecedented fight for his defeat. And 11 states passed constitutional amendments Nov. 2 banning same-sex “marriage.”

The New York Times devoted an article Dec. 9 to the in-house debate. Activists say they need to do a better job of personalizing the same-sex “marriage” issue by focusing on the legal benefits of marriage that homosexual couples lack.

“When you put a face to our issues, that’s when we get support,” Steven Fisher, HRC’s communications director, told The Times. “We’re not going to win at the ballot box until we start winning at the water cooler and in the church pews.”

But Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told the newspaper that the movement must continue pushing for same-sex “marriage.”

“A lot of gay people understand the concept of bullies,” Foreman told The Times. “The worst thing you can do with a bully is not fight back because you’ll only get hit harder the next day.”

Legally, the movement shows no sign of slowing down. Homosexual activists have lawsuits pending in nine states, and could see one or two — such as New Jersey or Washington state — legalize same-sex “marriage” in 2005. Both states have liberal-leaning supreme courts.

In addition, seven lawsuits are pending against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which protects states from being forced to recognize another state’s same-sex “marriage.”

Hours after the Election Day defeat, Foreman was candid in his thoughts about the legal landscape.

“This issue is going to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s not going to give a [expletive] what these state constitutions say,” he told the Associated Press.

Pro-family leaders say the plethora of lawsuits point to the need for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

ANOTHER WASH. RECOUNT — Democrats are paying for a second recount — this one by hand — in the Washington state governor’s race. It is expected to cost the Democratic Party some $1 million.

In the initial tally, Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes out of the approximately 2.8 million ballots cast. In the first recount, his lead shrunk to 42 votes and he was certified the winner. The second recount began Dec. 8.

Social conservatives believe a Rossi administration could be helpful in the coming year, when the Washington state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a same-sex “marriage” case and the state legislature is expected to consider a constitutional marriage amendment.
For information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit https://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust