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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Wisconsin governor supports passage of civil unions law; Mass. court hears amendment arguments

MADISON, Wis. (BP)–Wisconsin voters may have approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex civil unions, but Gov. Jim Doyle says the political battle over the issue is far from over.

The state’s voters passed an amendment on Election Day banning both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions by a margin of 59-41 percent. During his successful re-election campaign Doyle, a Democrat, urged a vote against the amendment. Now, Doyle says it was unfair for amendment supporters to place the civil unions ban in the text.

“I do not believe people in Wisconsin would have voted ‘no’ on civil unions,” Doyle told The Capital Times newspaper in Madison.

The constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by legislators, prohibits the legalization of “gay marriage” and anything “substantially similar to that of marriage” for unmarried couples. It was designed to ban Vermont-style civil unions and California-style domestic partnerships.

Doyle told the newspaper the issue of civil unions isn’t dead yet and that such unions are “one of the things people should be looking at and discussing.”

Others, though, disagree.

“I think the people spoke loudly and clearly that they don’t want gay marriage or gay marriage by a different name to be legalized in this state,” state Rep. Mark Gundrum, a Republican and a co-author of the amendment, told The Times. “In Vermont and Connecticut, it’s marriage in everything but the letters used to describe it. That would not be permitted under the amendment.”

Civil unions supporters could try to place their own constitutional amendment on the ballot, essentially reversing the effects of the one adopted in November. But to do that an amendment must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions.

Ironically, the legislature placed the amendment on the ballot only after Doyle vetoed a statute in 2003 banning “gay marriage.” Unlike statutes, constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Wisconsin is one of 27 states that have adopted a marriage amendment.

MASS. COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS — An attorney representing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 10 other plaintiffs asked the highest court in Massachusetts Dec. 20 to declare the recent actions of state legislators on a proposed marriage amendment unconstitutional.

At least twice in recent months, the legislature has recessed without voting on the proposed constitutional amendment, even though both sides say it has the votes to pass. Romney and others argue the Massachusetts Constitution requires legislators to act on the proposal.

John Hanify, the attorney representing Romney, conceded to the justices that the court could not force the legislature to vote, The Boston Globe reported. But Hanify said justices could place pressure on legislators by calling their actions illegal.

“We’re not asking you to tell the legislature how to do their business,” he said, according to The Globe. “We’re only asking you to declare what their constitutional obligations are.”

Legislators are scheduled to meet again Jan. 2. If they adjourn that day without voting on the amendment, then the amendment dies. If it passes, then it must pass once more during the next session in order to appear on the 2008 ballot. Romney hopes the court rules by Jan. 2.

The amendment, which would prohibit “gay marriage,” needs the support of only one-fourth of legislators. Approximately 170,000 state citizens signed petitions to place the amendment before the body.

HIGH HURDLE IN FLORIDA — If a proposed constitutional marriage amendment makes the Florida ballot in 2008, it will need approval by 60 percent of the voters to pass.

That’s because on Election Day, voters adopted a constitutional amendment requiring that all future amendments receive 60 percent of the vote, instead of a simple majority as now required. The amendment passed, 58-42 percent.

The proposed marriage amendment has yet to qualify, but it’s close. Supporters say they are roughly 35,000 signatures short of the 611,000 required. Petitions can be downloaded at www.florida4marriage.org.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust