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MARRIAGE DIGEST: N.Y. court won’t hear marriage lawsuit yet; Change of strategy in Mass.; Ind., Minn. advance amendments

ALBANY, N.Y. (BP)–The fight to legalize same-sex “marriage” in New York state won’t go through the state’s highest court just yet.

The state Court of Appeals declined March 31 to hear an appeal of a “gay marriage” lawsuit, saying it first must go through the state’s intermediate appellate division. The Court of Appeals is at the top of New York’s court system and likely will make the ultimate decision as to whether same-sex “marriage” is legalized.

In February a New York City trial-level judge issued a ruling legalizing same-sex “marriage,” and city officials chose to bypass the appellate court and appeal the decision directly to the Court of Appeals.

But the high court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction without an appellate-level review, the Associated Press reported.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, has walked a tightrope on the issue, saying he favors “gay marriage” but would rather see the legislature change the law. A recent poll showed that by a 51-40 percent margin NYC voters favor “gay marriage.”

“The Court of Appeals decision not to review this case without an intermediate court ruling … unfortunately will not give the gay and lesbian community clarity on this important issue as quickly as I had hoped,” Bloomberg said, according to the AP.

While 16 states have constitutional amendments explicitly banning “gay marriage,” New York is not one of them. Any such proposal would face an uphill battle in the state’s left-leaning legislature.

Massachusetts is the only state to recognize same-sex “marriage,” although that could change this year as courts in Washington state, New Jersey, California and New York consider “gay marriage” lawsuits. None of the states have a marriage amendment. The lack of an amendment in Massachusetts allowed that state’s high court to legalize same-sex “marriage.”

MASS. CHANGE OF STRATEGY — Massachusetts social conservatives, unhappy with the language of a marriage amendment currently before the state legislature, apparently are gearing up for a petition drive that would result in a differently worded amendment.

The Boston Globe reported March 30 that the Massachusetts Family Institute will gather signatures for an amendment that would ban same-sex “marriage” while leaving the issue of civil unions untouched.

As it stands now, the amendment being considered by the state legislature would ban “gay marriage” while legalizing civil unions — something many conservatives in the state find unacceptable. Such an amendment passed the legislature last year and must pass again for it to be placed on the 2006 ballot.

The Massachusetts Family Institute’s petition drive would require 65,000 signatures of certified voters. It would then require only 50 votes in two consecutively elected legislatures but wouldn’t go to voters until 2008 at the earliest, the Globe said. The signatures, though, don’t guarantee that the legislature would even consider it.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, told The Globe that his organization would unveil its complete strategy in April.

HONDURAS BANS SAME-SEX ‘MARRIAGE’ — The Central American country of Honduras has passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage,” the AP reported. Honduran lawmakers unanimously passed the amendment, which also bans adoption by homosexual couples, March 29.

OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS — Constitutional amendments banning same-sex “marriage” advanced recently in Indiana and Minnesota, while Connecticut moved one step closer toward legalizing civil unions.

In Indiana, a marriage amendment passed the state House March 22 by a vote of 76-23, completing the first part of a lengthy three-step process. It previously had passed the Senate. Now, the amendment must pass again by the next elected legislature before it goes to voters in 2008.

In Minnesota, a marriage amendment passed the state House March 31 by a vote of 77-56. It now moves to the state Senate, where it never received a vote last year. If it passes the Senate, Minnesotans will vote on it in 2006.

In Connecticut, a bill legalizing civil unions passed two legislative committees in March and could receive a Senate vote within the next couple of weeks. Vermont is the only state to have legalized civil unions, which provide most of the same legal benefits of marriage. Vermont’s civil unions were court-ordered.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is planning on filing a lawsuit in Tennessee to keep a marriage amendment off that state’s 2006 ballot, the AP reported. Tennessee legislators passed an amendment overwhelmingly, sending it to voters.

In addition, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Michigan March 21 asking a state court to rule that Michigan’s marriage amendment does not prevent government employers from providing benefits to same-sex partners, the AP reported. The amendment, which received 59 percent of the vote, says that a traditional marriage “shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

Marriage amendments ensure that state judges cannot legalize same-sex “marriage.” But because the amendments are vulnerable in federal courts, pro-family leaders are pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust