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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Wash. court hopes to issue marriage ruling by March 9; Canadian Conservatives take big lead

OLYMPIA, Wash. (BP)–The chief justice of the Washington state Supreme Court said Jan. 11 that his court hopes to issue its much-awaited “gay marriage” decision before the state legislature adjourns in early March.

Washington state Chief Justice Gerry Alexander made the comments to reporters as he announced he was running for re-election this fall, the Associated Press reported. Washington’s nine Supreme Court justices are elected by the voters.

If the court meets Alexander’s deadline, then a ruling would be handed down by March 9, the final day of the legislative session. The decision could make Washington the second state in the nation to redefine the definition of marriage, joining Massachusetts.

The court heard oral arguments in the case in March 2005, and conservatives and liberals alike have been awaiting a ruling. The lawsuit by homosexual activists asks the court to overturn the state’s defense of marriage act, which was passed in the 1990s and prevents the state from recognizing “gay marriage.” If the court sides with homosexual activists, it would be the first time a state high court has overturned a state’s “gay marriage” ban.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that a majority of Washington voters oppose “gay marriage” and would support a constitutional marriage amendment if the justices ruled against the law. The Elway Poll of 405 voters, conducted for the conservative Faith & Freedom Network, found that voters oppose “gay marriage” by a margin of 55-35 percent. Thirty-eight percent oppose it “strongly,” while only 14 percent support it “strongly.” Among the poll’s other findings:

— Sixty percent would rather see the issue decided by a vote of the public. Sixteen percent would rather the legislature decide, and 14 percent favor the court deciding.

— By a 54-36 percent margin, Washington voters would support a marriage amendment if the court overturned the state’s defense of marriage act. An amendment would trump any court ruling.

— Fifty-four percent of voters say they’d be less likely to vote for a justice who overturned the state’s defense of marriage act, while 34 percent said they’d be more likely. Forty-one percent said they’d be “much less likely,” and 19 percent said they’d be “much more likely.”

Told about the poll, Alexander said, according to The Olympian, “It’s a democracy, and people can say anything they want. We make decisions in the case based on the facts of the case.” He added: “I haven’t found the public takes revenge on a judge for their decisions.”

Any constitutional amendment would have to originate in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate, and legislators there aren’t jumping at the idea.

“If the court rules that our current defense of marriage act is, in fact, unconstitutional … then we’ll be left with a really interesting dilemma,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, a Democrat, said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “There will be some who will propose that we pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman. I believe that will not make it through the legislature. The bar for a constitutional amendment is very high … in the other direction; there’s not clearly a legislative majority for that either.”

Nevertheless, Republicans say they’ll push a marriage amendment.

“If they choose to override what the Legislature does, we think it should come back to the legislature — to us who represent the citizens of the state — to act on it again,” Rep. Mike Armstrong, a Republican, said, according to the Post-Intelligencer.

VA. HOUSES PASSES AMENDMENT — The Virginia House of Delegates passed a constitutional marriage amendment Jan. 13, moving it one step closer to being placed on the ballot this fall. The House vote was 73-22, according to the Associated Press. If approved by the Senate, it would go before voters this November.

The amendment must pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions; it passed in both chambers last year. The amendment would ban “gay marriage,” civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee will have marriage amendments on the ballot this year. Already, 19 states have adopted them.

CANADIAN CONSERVATIVES INCREASE LEAD — Canada’s Conservative Party has jumped to a double-digit lead in some polls, increasing the likelihood that the party can win Parliament during the Jan. 23 national election.

In a Strategic Counsel poll released Jan. 13, the Conservatives had 39 percent of the vote to the Liberals’ 27 percent. In an EKOS poll released Jan. 13, the Conservatives led 37.6 percent to the Liberals’ 28.3. In both polls, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois (which runs only in Quebec and supports secession) had less than 20 percent.

Led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Liberals led the charge last year to legalize “gay marriage.” Conservatives have promised a vote to repeal the law if they gain power, although any such bill would face an uphill climb in the Liberal-dominated Senate. Senators are appointed by the prime minister and unelected. Conservative leader Stephen Harper would become prime minister if his party wins.

Parliament has 308 seats, which means any party has to win 155 seats for a majority government. A minority government would force the Conservatives to work with the other three parties, all three of which are considered socially liberal.

Poll experts say a party must have around 40 percent of support in pre-election polls in order to win a majority of seats in Parliament.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust