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Q&A: Commonly asked questions about the ‘gay marriage’ issue

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A California judge’s ruling has placed the issue of same-sex “marriage” back in the spotlight in America. Following is a list of commonly asked questions, with answers, related to the issue.

— What did the judge in California rule?

The judge, Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer, struck down the state’s marriage laws and ruled that California had “no rational basis” to ban same-sex “marriage.” In doing so he overturned the state’s defense of marriage act, a 2000 law that explicitly banned “gay marriage” and had been passed by 61 percent of the voters.

— What happens now?

The ruling is being appealed. The next stop is the California Court of Appeals. After that, it could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which would have the final say.

— Can anything be done?

Yes. Conservatives in the state are promoting a state constitutional amendment that would ban “gay marriage.” Such an amendment is pending in the left-leaning legislature, where it faces an uphill battle. But California citizens have another option — the petition. Similar to the process used to recall former Gov. Gray Davis, citizens could collect enough petitions to place a marriage amendment on the state ballot.

— Is California the first state where such a ruling has been issued?

No. Including California, judges in four states have issued similar rulings in recent months. In November 2003, Massachusetts’ high court issued its ruling legalizing “gay marriage” in that state; the ruling took effect last year. Trial court judges in Washington state issued pro-“gay marriage” rulings last year, and the Washington Supreme Court subsequently heard an appeal of the case March 8. Finally, a trial court judge in New York issued a pro-“gay marriage” ruling in February. It is being appealed. But so far, Massachusetts is the only state to recognize same-sex “marriage.”

— How many states are involved in same-sex “marriage” lawsuits?

Nine. They are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. The Oregon lawsuit likely is moot, being that voters there passed a constitutional amendment last year banning “gay marriage.”

— Who are behind the lawsuits?

Liberal and homosexual activists groups. Two groups — Lambda Legal and the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — are involved in most of the suits. Other smaller groups, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, also are involved. GLAD, involved in the Connecticut lawsuit, is the same legal group that won in Massachusetts.

— How do marriage amendments help?

Marriage amendments provide an extra blanket of protection against pro-“gay marriage” judicial rulings. In the same way that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned slavery, marriage amendments ban “gay marriage.” If Massachusetts had had a marriage amendment, then same-sex “marriage” there would still be outlawed.

— How many states have marriage amendments?

Sixteen, although that number keeps growing. (Kansas, for instance will vote on a marriage amendment April 5.) A 17th state, Hawaii, has an amendment allowing its state legislature to ban same-sex “marriage.”

— What is a civil union?

Civil unions provide same-sex couples most or all of the legal benefits of marriage, without using the term “marriage.” Vermont is the only state with civil unions. California has domestic partnerships, which are similar. Some of the marriage amendments ban civil unions and domestic partnerships.

— What is the difference between a state marriage amendment and a federal marriage amendment?

State marriage amendments only provide protection against state judges — which is significant, but not perfect. For instance, Ohio’s amendment — passed last year — bans Ohio judges from legalizing “gay marriage.” But the amendment could be overturned in federal courts. In fact, Nebraska’s and Oklahoma’s amendments are being challenged in federal court. By comparison, a federal marriage amendment provides significantly stronger protection and prevents any court in America — state or federal — from legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

— Could the U.S. Supreme Court eventually take up the “gay marriage” issue?

Yes. In fact, many legal experts say it’s only a matter of time. If the high court takes up the case, it likely would be a review of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages.” The law also prevents the federal government from recognizing “gay marriage.” If DOMA is overturned, the nation would have court-ordered same-sex “marriage.” A federal marriage amendment would prevent the U.S. Supreme Court from issuing such a ruling.

— What is required to pass a federal marriage amendment?

It must pass two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. The amendment is SJR 1 in the Senate. It has yet to be introduced in the House.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust