- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

Homosexual rights groups said yesterday that they will head back to the courtrooms to achieve legalization of same-sex “marriages,” which voters in 11 states barred Tuesday, as two lesbian couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s new marriage law.

This week’s election results “ended nothing,” said Matt Coles, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

In a federal court in Tulsa, Okla., yesterday, the lesbian couples challenged the amendment passed Tuesday, which defines marriage as only between one man and one woman and says same-sex “marriages” from other states will not be recognized there.

The couples claim that the state amendment violates their due-process and equal-protection rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No state constitution can abridge federally guaranteed rights.

Lawsuits seeking same-sex “marriage” rights “will go forward in New York, California, Washington, Maryland and New Jersey,” Mr. Coles said. Legal challenges to amendments also are expected in Georgia, Ohio, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Mississippi.

Exit polls showed significant public support for legal protections for homosexual couples — including 35 percent support for marriagelike civil unions — and these issues must be kept in the forefront of conversations, said Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights advocacy group.

“No elected official can reverse the American people’s support for equality,” she said. “To win at the ballot box, we must also keep winning at the water cooler.”

Privately, though, homosexual rights activists were reeling over the re-election of President Bush, who supports amending the U.S. Constitution to allow only traditional marriage, and the passage of the 11 state marriage amendments, all of which define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Homosexual rights activists talked on e-mail lists and blogs about moving to friendlier places such as Canada or Europe. Some felt personally attacked by the votes; others worried about whether their domestic-partnership benefits were in jeopardy.

“There is no sugar coating that will help make yesterday’s election results easier to take,” said Ron Schlittler, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. “Given the impact on our families and friends, it is very personal.”

Still, homosexual rights leaders worked to lift the spirits of their friends and allies.

“Painful as these discriminatory measures will be … they will not stop our advance toward marriage equality,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry.

“If we can move even George Bush to profess support for civil unions — something that didn’t exist five years ago — we can surely continue to move the middle toward fairness,” said Mr. Wolfson, referring to Mr. Bush’s televised statement in October that he didn’t think “we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do.”

Mr. Bush’s comment widely was interpreted to mean that he supported states’ rights to enact civil unions, even though that is out of step with traditional-values groups, who oppose civil unions as well as same-sex “marriages.”

Homosexual rights activists saw other bright spots in the Tuesday elections.

An analysis by the Williams Project, a group at the School of Law at the University of California at Los Angeles, showed that homosexual, bisexual and transgender voters made up 4 percent of the vote, essentially the same as before.

Ironically, support for Mr. Bush also held steady: In 2000, he received 25 percent of the homosexual vote; on Tuesday, he received 21 percent, “not a statistically significant difference,” the Williams Project said.

But, despite passage of the 11 marriage amendments, “openly gay elected officials had a better day,” the project said. “All openly gay members running for Congress and the California Legislature were elected or re-elected.”

Similar cheers were sounded in Massachusetts, where homosexual rights groups are planning to sink the constitutional marriage amendment that passed this year. Lawmakers must approve the amendment a second time before it can go to voters.

But all 50 incumbent lawmakers who voted against the amendment have been re-elected, and at least nine new amendment opponents have been elected, said Arline Isaacson and Gary Daffin, leaders of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

In addition, they noted, Ron Crews, the former leader of a traditional-values group in Massachusetts, was “trounced” in his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern.

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