- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

Legally recognized same-sex unions and "expanded" domestic partnerships are up for debate in Connecticut and California legislatures, and a lawsuit with national implications for recognizing same-sex unions has a hearing next week.
At noon today, hundreds of people are expected to jam a hearing room of the Connecticut General Assembly Judiciary Committee to testify about three bills associated with marriage.
One bill, which has numerous Republican co-sponsors, affirms traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The other two bills, introduced by a Democrat, would either allow same-sex couples to "marry" or enter into a civil union that provides marriagelike rights and responsibilities.
Committee co-chairman state Rep. Michael Lawlor, who has considerable power over which bills make it out of committee, supports legally recognizing same-sex unions. However, the debate over traditional marriage versus same-sex unions is likely to continue "until one or the other is passed," state Rep. T.R. Rowe, a co-sponsor of the traditional marriage bill, said Friday.
An even bigger audience is expected March 4, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hears arguments on a lawsuit many believe could affect marriage on a national basis.
The lawsuit, Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, is brought by seven same-sex couples who say they were unfairly denied the right to marry. They are represented by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Boston law firm that won a similar lawsuit in Vermont that led to the creation of civil unions.
If the Massachusetts high court legalizes same-sex unions for its residents, it's inevitable that some couples will seek marriage recognition in other states. Homosexual activists also are expected to use a favorable Massachusetts ruling to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal spousal benefits to married couples.
The Boston Bar Association has urged the high court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that same-sex couples cannot get legal protections for their relationships without marital rights.
However, the attorneys general of Utah, Nebraska and South Dakota have urged the high court to reject a "radical redefinition of marriage" because "it will be aggressively exported and used to try to force other states to recognize same-sex marriage."
Meanwhile, another battle is shaping up in California, where lawmakers have a bill that greatly expands the state's domestic-partnership registry to include marriage-related benefits.
A hearing is scheduled for March in the California Legislature Judiciary Committee on AB 205, introduced by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, Los Angeles Democrat. The bill would allow same-sex couples to adopt children, assign child custody, file joint state tax returns and share debt. The bill makes so many changes that if it becomes law, California's 18,000 domestic partners probably would have to re-register, Miss Goldberg said.
Opponents of legally recognized same-sex unions say AB 205 is an end run around the voter-approved Proposition 22, which says that marriage in California is the union between a man and a woman.
Miss Goldberg counters that her bill doesn't interfere with Proposition 22 because it affects the rights of registered domestic partners and "does not in any way amend marriage."

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