- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

Louisiana’s Sept. 18 vote on a constitutional marriage amendment was given a pass yesterday by one district judge, but faces a court challenge later this week by another judge who already has ruled that it should be struck from the ballot.

Meanwhile, the marriage amendment has been printed on the Sept. 18 ballots, and supporters say it will take a decision by the state’s highest court to prevent a vote on it.

Yesterday, state District Court Judge Michael Caldwell ruled against the Forum for Equality Political Action Committee, a homosexual rights group.

The group asked to have the proposed marriage amendment declared unconstitutional because it would invalidate contracts that same-sex partners already have established.

Judge Caldwell said that the constitutionality of a marriage amendment can’t be challenged until it has gone to the voters. He also refused to block the amendment from going to voters on Sept. 18, the state’s primary day and the date set for the vote by lawmakers.

The Forum for Equality Political Action Committee will appeal the ruling, spokesmen said. However, the group also is preparing for a hearing this week in which Civil District Court Judge Christopher Bruno will decide whether to make permanent the temporary injunction his issued last week to block the marriage amendment from the Sept. 18 ballot.

Judge Bruno agreed with the Forum for Equality Political Action Committee that it was wrong to have a vote on a state constitutional measure in a primary election, since many Louisiana parishes do not have primary races. He suspended his restraining order so the state could appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Judge Bruno scheduled arguments on making his order permanent for this Friday.

State law officials said a primary election day, under Louisiana law, is a statewide election day and the Sept. 18 amendment vote is legal. They also said they were appealing the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum, said yesterday that four separate lawsuits had been filed against the marriage amendment, and, with Judge Caldwell’s ruling, “there’s two down, two to go.”

The marriage amendment already has been printed on the Sept. 18 ballots “and it’s coming to the people,” Mr. Mills said, adding that it would take a decision from the state’s highest court to prevent a vote on the matter.

However, Louisiana Secretary of State Fox McKeithen has told reporters that the state, if ordered, can cancel a vote on the amendment even though it appears on the ballots.

The Louisiana amendment, approved this year by lawmakers, says: “Marriage in the state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman; that the legal incidents of marriage shall be conferred only upon such union; prohibits the validation or recognition of the legal status of any union of unmarried individuals; prohibits the recognition of a marriage contracted in another jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.”

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