- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

Supporters of a constitutional marriage amendment are using a federal judge’s ruling Thursday calling Nebraska’s same-sex “marriage” ban unconstitutional to re-energize the issue on Capitol Hill and build support for their federal proposal.

“This unfortunate act of judicial activism makes it very clear that marriage is at risk in the federal courts and Congress must pass, and the people of this country must ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He urged supporters to call Nebraska’s two senators to demand a Senate vote.

“It proves the need for our marriage protection amendment,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, the driving force behind the amendment. “It will continue to increase our momentum.”

The Nebraska amendment — which voters passed with 70 percent in 2000 — prohibited not only same-sex “marriage,” but domestic partnerships and civil unions as well.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon said the amendment “goes far beyond merely defining marriage as between a man a woman” and would prevent same-sex couples from even petitioning the state government for any benefits.

“Plaintiffs are denied access to the legislative process that is afforded to all citizens of the state of Nebraska,” he wrote.

Opponents noted that the Nebraska amendment was overturned not because of the marriage issue, but because it was too broad.

“The Nebraska Constitution went much further than any state constitutional amendment has gone,” said Chris Anders, a legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, which was one of the plaintiffs in the case. Mr. Anders said the decision recognized “a narrow but important right” not to be “completely shut out of the political process.”

Seth Kilbourn, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s marriage project, said proponents of the federal marriage amendment will “use every single thing they can to scare people,” but the same-sex “marriage” issue remains a state issue.

The federal constitutional marriage amendment — which would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman — failed in both chambers last year. In the House, it fell well short of the two-thirds vote required to approve a constitutional amendment (227-186) and when the Senate considered a similar amendment in July, it was unable to muster the 60 votes to cut off debate and force a final vote.

House and Senate Republican leaders have promised to bring it up again during this congressional session.

Mr. Anders said votes have not changed much, and even proponents of the measure admit it doesn’t yet have the votes to pass.

But proponents continue to work toward its passage. Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, is holding a hearing on the issue Thursday in his Senate Judiciary constitution subcommittee.

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