- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

A Louisiana judge yesterday overturned a recently passed state constitutional marriage amendment, saying it was too broad.

The amendment, written by lawmakers and approved by almost 78 percent of voters on Sept. 18, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It also says other relationships with the “legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

District Court Judge William Morvant in Baton Rouge ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional because it had more than one purpose — it banned not only homosexual “marriage,” but also civil unions.

Michael Johnson, an attorney for amendment supporters, said they would appeal.

Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual-rights advocacy group, praised Judge Morvant’s ruling for keeping discrimination “out of the Louisiana Constitution.”

Amendments restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples deny homosexual couples basic rights, responsibilities and protections, she said. “Americans don’t support discrimination, especially when it’s used for political purposes.”

Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum, which promoted the amendment, said, “Obviously, we’re surprised and disappointed, but I’m optimistic that we’ll will this on appeal.”

“We believe that the people of Louisiana understood what they were voting for and that they, in fact, are the arbiters of the constitution, not a judge. And they spoke overwhelmingly, to the tune of about 78 percent. They were not confused,” Mr. Mills said.

Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund who works with Mr. Johnson, said the amendment is constitutional because it addresses one topic — how marriage and marital status will be defined under Louisiana law. Marriage and civil unions are not unrelated topics, he said.

Louisiana already has a law outlawing homosexual “marriage.” The amendment is intended to define marriage in the constitution so courts cannot find a right to marry homosexuals, as happened a year ago in Massachusetts.

Randy Evans and other lawyers representing the Forum Equality Political Action Committee, a homosexual-rights group, filed the challenge to the amendment.

They argued against it before the Sept. 18 vote, saying it would force people to vote against both homosexual “marriage” and civil unions when they might favor one but not the other. The lawyers also said that if the amendment stands, it could cost hundreds of thousands of Louisiana’s homosexual couples their domestic-partner benefits.

Legal challenges went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court. On Sept. 2, the high court declined to hear the lawsuits, leaving intact an appellate court ruling in favor of a vote.

However, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero left open the possibility of challenging the amendment language, should it pass.

“The court may yet have to address this constitutional question in a post-election challenge,” he wrote.

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