News Articles

Same-sex ‘marriage’ issue percolates in 4 state courts, 1 federal court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While the nation awaits a ruling by Massachusetts’ high court on the issue of same-sex “marriage,” the legal battle is spreading to other states.

Arizona, Indiana and New Jersey are all involved in separate state court cases where homosexual couples are seeking marriage licenses. Additionally, activists have filed suit on the federal level asking a U.S. district court to overturn Nebraska’s constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage.”

Matt Daniels, president of the pro-family organization Alliance for Marriage, believes it is only a matter of time before a state court grants marriages licenses to homosexual couples.

“Massachusetts really represents the culmination of a decade of litigation,” he told Baptist Press. “That’s why it’s such a big deal. It’s a watershed moment. Maybe it’ll be New Jersey, but it’ll be a watershed moment.”

Any day the highest court in Massachusetts — the Supreme Judicial Court — is expected to issue its ruling on whether homosexual couples in the state can be granted marriage licenses. The court was expected to rule in July but passed a non-binding 130-day deadline. It heard the case in March.

While a state supreme court has never ruled for same-sex “marriage,” lower state courts have.

In the mid-1990s a Hawaii court case involving three homosexual couples set off a national firestorm, leading to Congress passing the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, which protects one state from having to recognize another state’s same-sex “marriages.”

A Hawaii circuit court judge’s ruling in 1996 for same-sex “marriage” was the nation’s first, although it was appealed and eventually rendered meaningless after Hawaii voters passed a constitutional amendment giving the state legislature the power to limit the definition of marriage.

A similar event took place in Alaska in 1998, when a state superior court judge threatened to strike down Alaska’s ban on same-sex “marriage.” That same year Alaskan voters passed a constitutional amendment banning homosexual “marriage.”

But a similar groundswell of opposition to same-sex “marriage” has yet to surface in Massachusetts and New Jersey — the two states observers believe are most likely to broaden the definition of marriage. New Jersey’s high court is the one that ruled the Boy Scouts must accept openly homosexual troop leaders — a ruling that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A poll in Massachusetts showed that 50 percent of its adults favored same-sex “marriage,” while a poll in New Jersey found that 55 percent of its residents supported it.

Both polls bucked nationwide trends. In fact, a recent FOX News poll showed that 58 percent of Americans favored amending the Constitution to ban same-sex “marriage.”

The Alliance for Marriage has authored such an amendment — the Federal Marriage Amendment — that has more than 75 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission supports it.

“There’s no question that as the American people realize the fact that our marriage laws are about to be struck down, that public opinion as we always expected is moving in our direction,” Daniels said.

“Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but they don’t have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society. They are crossing a line that people are not willing to see them cross.”

Social conservatives also fear that the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision, which struck down anti-sodomy laws, will provide support for those arguing for homosexual “marriage.”

Benjamin Bull, chief counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, told Baptist Press he doesn’t believe Massachusetts will rule for same-sex “marriage” although it may grant Vermont-type civil unions. Bull also doubts that other courts will rule for same-sex “marriage.”

“There may be a rogue court somewhere someday, but there’s a reason why it’s never happened, and that reason is that you can’t turn a racehorse into a toadstool,” said Bull, whose organization filed a friend-of-the court brief with the state in the Arizona case, saying homosexuals should not be granted marriage licenses.

Following is a brief summary of the current cases involving same-sex “marriage,” courtesy of data from www.marriagewatch.org.


ARIZONA — The case involves two men who are suing the state, asking for marriage licenses. Their case was heard by the Arizona Court of Appeals Aug. 19.

Observers on both sides of the issue say it has the least likely chance to succeed. In fact, three of the nation’s largest homosexual-friendly organizations — the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union — refused to sign on.

The case is Standhardt v. Superior Court.

INDIANA — The Indiana chapter of the ACLU filed suit on behalf of three homosexual couples seeking marriage licenses or recognition of their Vermont civil union licenses.

A superior court judge dismissed the case in May, although it has been appealed to the state court of appeals.

The case is Morrison v. Sadler.

MASSACHUSETTS — The New England-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed suit on behalf of seven homosexual couples. The Massachusetts Bar Association filed a friend-of-the court brief.

The state’s highest court heard oral arguments in March and is expected to issue a ruling any day.

The case is Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.

NEW JERSEY — Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of seven same-sex couples. In June a superior court judge heard arguments on a motion to dismiss the case. Her ruling is expected in the next few weeks.

The case is Lewis v. Harris.


NEBRASKA — Lambda Legal, along with the Nebraska chapter of the ACLU, filed suit in a U.S. district court in Nebraska asking that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” be overturned.

The plaintiffs say they are not seeking marriage licenses but instead want to strike down an amendment that bans “equal access” rights, such as hospital visitation rights.

The amendment reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.”

The case is Citizens for Equal Protection v. Attorney General.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust