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MARRIAGE DIGEST: New poll has stunning results in conservative S.D.; suit seeks to keep Ariz. amend. off ballot …

PIERRE, S.D. (BP)–New polls show proposed constitutional marriage amendments in Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin are favored to pass this November, while an amendment in South Dakota — surprisingly — is trailing in voter approval.

Six states are scheduled to vote on such amendments this fall, and another two states, Arizona and Colorado, could join that list. The amendments are aimed at prohibiting state courts from following Massachusetts’ highest court’s lead and legalizing “gay marriage.”

But if a Mason-Dixon poll is to be believed, voters in conservative South Dakota — a state in which President Bush carried 60 percent of the vote — oppose the amendment. According to the poll of 800 likely voters for the Argus Leader newspaper and KELO-TV, 49 percent of those questioned oppose the amendment and 41 percent favor it. A loss in South Dakota would be a shocking defeat for nationwide conservatives, who have yet to experience an amendment loss on the state level.

“The results may be a little shot in the arm that we need to get to work on getting our message out,” Rob Regier of the South Dakota Family Policy Council told the Argus Leader.

Voters in 20 states have adopted marriage amendments, and so far, none of the votes have been close, passing by an average of 71 percent. The tightest vote was in Oregon, where 57 percent of voters approved that state’s amendment in 2004.

“In a number of states, these kinds of amendments are drawing strong majorities of support, so I was surprised at the South Dakota results,” Mason-Dixon’s J. Brad Coker told the newspaper.

In the other states:

— 56 percent of likely voters in Virginia say they favor that state’s proposed amendment, while 38 percent are opposed, according to a Mason-Dixon poll of 625 likely voters.

— 52.5 percent of adults in Wisconsin say they support that state’s proposed amendment, while 43.8 percent oppose it, according to a Badger Poll of 508 people. (The sample was of adults, and not of likely or registered voters.)

— 76 percent of likely voters in Tennessee say they back a proposed marriage amendment there, while 15 percent oppose it, according to a Mason-Dixon poll of 642 likely voters.

The question posed to those in the South Dakota survey may have impacted the poll’s outcome, Regier suggested. Somewhat lengthy, it stated: “Constitutional Amendment C would amend the state constitution to allow and recognize marriage only between a man and a woman. It would also prohibit the legislature from allowing or recognizing civil unions, domestic partnerships or other quasi-marital relationships between two or more persons regardless of sex. If you were voting on this amendment today, would you vote ‘yes’ to change the constitution, or ‘no’ to leave the constitution as it is?”

“I think the question may have confused some people,” Regier told the Argus Leader.

LAWSUIT IN ARIZONA — Opponents of a proposed marriage amendment in Arizona have filed a lawsuit seeking to keep the initiative off the November ballot. They contend that the amendment covers more than one issue, which, if true, would violate the Arizona constitution. Similar lawsuits in other states have failed; Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled against such a suit in July.

An Arizona trial court judge heard oral arguments in the case Aug. 4.

“This lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate attempt by those who oppose this amendment to evade the democratic process,” Glen Lavy, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is defending the amendment in the suit, said in a statement. “The amendment is a clear, straightforward proposition with one purpose: protecting marriage. Every state supreme court that has addressed the issue has agreed unanimously. We are confident that this judge will agree as well.”

To qualify the amendment for the ballot, the Protect Marriage Arizona coalition turned in 307,000 signatures — significantly more than the 184,000 required. The signatures have yet to be verified.

NEBRASKA RULING APPEALED — Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed legal papers July 28 appealing a decision by an appeals court panel that upheld Nebraska’s marriage amendment. The appeal asks the full U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear the case. The lawsuit by Lambda Legal and the ACLU does not seek the legalizing of “gay marriage,” but only the overturning of the amendment, which the two organizations contend is wide-reaching.

In the 3-0 decision July 14, the Eighth Circuit panel reversed a lower court ruling that had overturned the amendment.

“In the nearly one hundred and fifty years since the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, to our knowledge no justice of the Supreme Court has suggested that a state statute or constitutional provision codifying the traditional definition of marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause or any other provision of the United States Constitution,” the opinion read.

Nebraska’s amendment was approved by 70 percent of voters.

NO ‘GAY MARRIAGE’ IN BRITAIN — A British court July 31 ruled that the government isn’t required to recognize “gay marriages” from Canada, handing a legal defeat to a lesbian couple who had “married” across the Atlantic in Canada and then returned home to file suit.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Mark Potter ruled that there was a “long-standing definition and acceptance” that marriage is the union of one man and one woman aimed at the best interests of children.

“To accord a same-sex relationship the title and status of marriage would be to fly in the face of the [European] Convention [on Human Rights] as well as to fail to recognize physical reality,” Potter wrote, according to AP.

The ruling could be appealed. Britain has civil partnerships, which grant same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage.

Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada recognize “gay marriage.” South Africa likely will follow suit later this year.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust