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S.D. legislature sends marriage amend. to voters

PIERRE, S.D. (BP)–South Dakota citizens will vote next year on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage.”

The South Dakota Senate passed a state constitutional marriage amendment by a vote or 20-14 Feb. 28, sending it to citizens for a November 2006 vote. It previously passed in the House 55-14.

South Dakota is the first state to place a marriage amendment on the ballot in 2006, although other states likely will follow.

“Marriage is the foundation of a family. It’s the bedrock of our society,” state Sen. John Koskan, a Republican, argued on the floor during debate. “Changing the definition does not improve the institution of marriage. It destroys it. If the definition is so broad, it does not have any meaning.”

The amendment bans same-sex “marriage,” Vermont-style civil unions and California-style domestic partnerships. It states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in South Dakota. The uniting of two or more persons in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other quasi-marital relationship shall not be valid or recognized in South Dakota.”

Tennessee’s legislature is only one step away from sending a marriage amendment to voters in 2006. An amendment passed the Tennessee Senate 29-3 Feb. 28 and now must pass the House.

Virginia’s general assembly also passed an amendment Feb. 26. It breezed through the House of Delegates 79-17 and the Senate 30-10. It must pass again next year before it can be placed on the 2006 ballot.

The amendments are being passed in reaction to events in Massachusetts, where that state’s high court issued a ruling legalizing “gay marriage.”

Koskan asserted that marriage must be defined in the traditional sense.

“How tolerant should we be? What should we exclude?” he asked, raising the question of why polygamous and incestual marriages shouldn’t be legalized.

“Why can’t we allow that?” he asked rhetorically.

Sixteen states have constitutional amendments banning same-sex “marriage.” A 17th state, Hawaii, has a constitutional amendment that gives the state legislature the power to ban “gay marriage.”

At least 17 other states are considering constitutional marriage amendments, including Kansas, where citizens will vote on an amendment April 5.

The amendments tie the hands of state courts, preventing Massachusetts-type court rulings legalizing “gay marriage.” State amendments, though, are vulnerable in federal court and, thus, pro-family groups are promoting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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