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Push for same-sex marriage follows similar path in 3 states

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage have followed a similar path in each state where a lawsuit has ignited the issue.
Spousal benefits are a related concern, fueled most recently by a May 11 proposal by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to extend full spousal benefits to unmarried partners of city employees.
In 1993 the Hawaii Supreme Court became the first in the nation to rule that refusing to allow civil marriage between same-sex couples was discriminatory. The court required the state in late 1996 to demonstrate a “compelling interest” why same-sex marriages should not be permitted to take place. The trial court concluded that the state failed to do this. The trial court’s decision is currently on appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Most observers believe if that court is left to decide the issue, it will affirm the trial court and open the door to same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
Anticipating this, the state legislature in 1997 passed a state constitutional amendment that would restore its authority to define “marriage” as an opposite-sex institution to the legislature. This amendment will go to voters Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court can take up the appeal before it at any time, but has not given any clues about when it will do so. Most people believe the court is awaiting the outcome of the vote on the proposed amendment.
Same-sex marriages were banned by Alaska’s legislature in 1996. In February 1998, however, a state trial judge hearing a suit filed by a same-sex couple who wanted to marry ruled the state’s marriage law was potentially unconstitutional because it appeared to violate Alaska’s constitutional “right to privacy.”
Within one week, an amendment was introduced into the Alaska legislature to define marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman. In mid-April, the Alaska Senate passed it by a two-thirds vote, required to place the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot. On May 11, the Alaska House followed suit, passing it 28-12, thus giving voters an opportunity to decide whether to add the amendment to the state constitution.
Alaska is one of 30 states that already has enacted a Defense of Marriage Act, a law that limits marriage to one man and one woman regardless of where the marriage was performed.
In July 1997, three same-sex couples in Vermont filed suit, seeking recognition of their alleged “marriages.” The couples said existing Vermont law allowed for same sex marriage, and if it didn’t, the law violated the state’s constitution. The lawsuit was dismissed in Superior Court in December 1997 but the plaintiffs appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.
According to the Superior Court judge, people can enter into marriage as long as they do so in a manner consistent with the definition of marriage. She whittled the reasons for maintaining one man/one woman marriages down to procreation and the rearing of children.
The homosexual activist plaintiffs filed their briefs in March; the pro-traditional family defendants filed their responses May 1. The plaintiffs were to file a reply brief in about three weeks. Oral arguments will follow, probably in the early fall.
“All three of the cases are pretty dangerous, but the one in Vermont seems to be the most serious because there doesn’t seem to be any strong political opposition to the lawsuit in the political realm as there has been in Hawaii and Alaska,” said attorney Jordan Lorence. “Vermont is not Norman Rockwell country anymore. The legislature is also very liberal.
“If any one of these lawsuits or possibly a future one passes, same-sex marriages basically are going to be legalized in about half the states for sure,” said Lorence, who works on behalf of the Alliance Defense Fund, which was founded in 1993 by leaders of six evangelical entities, including Focus on the Family and the American Family Association.
And what about the states that don’t want to recognize same-sex marriages?
The U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It says a state may refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage that was entered into in another state. To date, 30 states have passed Defense of Marriage Acts. It is anticipated several others would if and when state legislators saw the need.
Spousal benefits:
Homosexual activists speak of “domestic partnerships” when they refer to their lobbying for spousal benefits.
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proposed legislation May 11 that would require the city government to treat unmarried couples the same as those who are married, including being buried in a cemetery for city workers and their families.
The New York Times reported the legislation was expected to overwhelmingly pass.
In Hawaii, homosexual activists list about 400 spousal benefits “domestic partners” should receive in that state. Their list in Vermont is about 125, including medical treatment and hospital visitation, inheritance, dealing with the body of a deceased person, Social Security, veteran’s and other government benefits, health insurance, tax benefits, pensions, bereavement leave and “social respect” — legal recognition of a committed union that reflects a community respect for that union.
“Gay activists view domestic partner benefits as a fairness issue,” Lorence said, noting that homosexuals want the equal opportunity to marry or not marry.
“When you put that piece of the puzzle with the same-sex marriage ones in Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska,” Lorence said, ”you see the big picture that, to them, there’s nothing special about marriage. It may be special to you, and that’s OK. But it’s like picking peas instead of carrots. Individual choice.”