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Same-sex marriage issue stirs in Alaska, Vermont, Hawaii

JUNEAU, Alaska (BP)–If you want to get married in Alaska, it has to be to someone of the opposite sex, if voters concur in November.
That’s the decision the House of Representatives made in the final hours of this Alaska legislative session May 11. Senate Joint Resolution 42, proposing to limit marriage to one man and one woman, passed by a vote of 28 to 12, one more than needed to attain a two-thirds majority to place the measure on the November ballot.
“I’m excited that it passed by 28 votes,” said Tom Gordy, associate pastor at Glacier Valley Baptist Church in Juneau. “It’s great to see that when you work hard at something, even though the competition has more money and paid lobbyists, that you can see the fruits of your labor pay off. The grassroots is alive and well in Alaska.”
At the present time, all 50 states limit marriage to a union between one man and one woman, but Alaska is one of three states where litigation is threatening to change that definition. Hawaii and Vermont also are dealing with the possibility. In all three cases, the issue started with lawsuits being filed by same-sex couples who charged discrimination because they weren’t allowed to enter into a legal marriage contract.
“The time was viewed as ripe in the last few years by gay rights activists to file suits challenging state statutes,” said Jordan Lorence, a constitutional law attorney in the Washington, D.C., area active in the issue of same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships. “They’ve basically targeted states with the most liberal judiciary and they’ve used a variety of arguments.”
Hawaii was first. The argument used in that lawsuit: equal rights.
Alaska was second. The argument there: right to privacy.
Vermont’s argument: personal choice.
Hawaii’s case goes to voters in November. The question on the ballot would put this language into the Hawaii Constitution: “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.” In other words, the Marriage Amendment restores the situation to where it stood before the Hawaii Supreme Court surprised everyone with its decision in 1993 holding that marriage limited to a one man/one woman union denies equal rights to same-sex unions.
Vermont’s case is still in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court.
Alaska’s case is a simple Agree or Disagree: “To be valid or recognized in this state, a marriage may exist only between one man and one woman. No provision of this constitution may be interpreted to require the state to recognize or permit marriage between individuals of the same sex.”
Southern Baptists have been involved in the same-sex marriage issue in all three states.
Rick Lazor, pastor at Nu’uanu Baptist Church, Honolulu, has testified three times in public hearings and repeatedly visited each Hawaii senator. A veteran of more than 20 years in Hawaii pastoral ministry, including family and teen counseling and work with young people and adults with sexual identity problems, he is known by the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention staff as probably the most politically aware pastor on the island state.
“We (Hawaii) were chosen by gay activists as a testing ground to float this idea of same-sex marriage because of our reputation for tolerance and liberal politics,” Lazor said. Yet in the heat of the debate, “Insistence on marriage as a union only between a man and a woman has been called ‘bitter’ and ‘ugly.’ The verbiage being used right now is such nonsense.”
During testimony presented in February, Lazor said, “Stable marriages and a state that applauds and nurtures them are the first cornerstone to a healthy economy, a principled judiciary and a healthy society.”
In Vermont, five Southern Baptist pastors were among 23 pastors in the state to sign a paid advertisement that appeared in local newspapers advocating a scriptural view of marriage. They chose this route rather than attacking same-sex marriage. This was the first time Vermont pastors have cooperated in this type of venture, said Dan Nicholas, managing editor of the New England Baptist newsjournal.
David Lee, pastor at East Randolph (Vt.) Baptist Church, was one of the signers. His church and many others across the state also submitted a statement to an amicus brief that was to be presented May 1 to the state Supreme Court. So did the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We believe we must speak out against any consideration of legalizing same-sex marriages,” Lee said, “since this issue would destroy the family unit and our own nation, let alone Vermont and our local community.
“This perversion of marriage bolsters all kinds of other problems,” he said.
In Alaska, Tom Gordy testified three times in public hearings on the same-sex marriage issue and is on a first-name basis with many state government officials. He is a Southern Baptist associate pastor with responsibility for youth and Christian education and is state director of the Alaska chapter of the Christian Coalition in addition to his penchant for finding his way regularly to the statehouse.
“It’s amazing that just a few people can take something to court and one judge can overturn what a supermajority of the Alaska legislature support and approve,” Gordy said. “I’m opposed to same- sex marriage. I believe it is immoral. I was very concerned for the state and our nation because you never know where decisions like this will end up.”
That’s the concern of Christians across the country.
Litigators for homosexual activists “want to use the U.S. Constitution to force every state to accept same-sex marriage,” noted David Orgon Coolidge, director of the Marriage Law Project at Catholic University in Washington, of a recent court case there.
“Because of the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, most state decisions are honored by other states. If the door to same-sex marriage opens in one state, couples will fly there, get married, return to their home states and file constitutional lawsuits. Their strategy is to bypass the democratic process, while fighting off attempts at popular resistance.”
According to Lorence, if marriage is radically redefined, or domestic partnerships instituted, the nation’s entire moral code will unravel. Scripture agrees with the experience of every society that has existed, he added.
“The more permissive the sexual morals are, the more the society falls apart,” the attorney said. “The more society restricts sexual activity to within the bonds of marriage, the more freedom, individual liberty, economic prosperity and scientific advancement.”
It usually takes three generations for a society to buckle, Lorence said. The sexual permissiveness of the 1960s was the opening salvo. It led to the first lawsuits filed by homosexual activists in the 1970s — in Minnesota, Washington state and Kentucky — all of which were unsuccessful. One generation later, in the 1990s, homosexual activists tested the waters again and found them much more accepting of formerly aberrant ideas.
“If one state legalizes same-sex marriage, [ultimately] there’s going to be no significance to marriage and you are going to reap chaos in society,” Lorence said. “The morality the Bible teaches, to keep sexual activity inside marriage, is like God putting up guard rails around the Grand Canyon. People who disagree with it are saying, ‘Let’s take down the guard rails and put on blindfolds and start driving our cars.’ There’s an illusion of freedom when you take down the guardrails, but it leads to destruction.”