- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Michigan’s marriage amendment stalled yesterday when election officials deadlocked along party lines on a vote to certify the proposal for the November ballot.

Backers of the amendment, who helped gather more than 480,000 signatures this summer to get it on the general-election ballot, said they would go to the Michigan Court of Appeals as early as today to fight for the amendment.

“We’re confident that we can get around the political maneuvering, and that the voters will get to decide this issue in November,” said Brad Snavely, executive director of the Michigan Family Forum.

Yesterday, four officials of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers met to certify ballot measures, including the amendment promoted by the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage that says: “To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

The measure is intended to maintain marriage in its traditional form and outlaw homosexual “marriages.” Backers collected far more than the 317,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot.

Doyle O’Connor, a Democratic member of the canvassers board, said yesterday he was concerned that the amendment’s wording would prevent employers from providing benefits to same-sex partners. He voted against certifying the amendment, as did Dorothy Jones, the board’s chairwoman and other Democratic member.

Republicans Eric Pelton and Katherine DeGrow voted to certify the amendment.

The tied vote means “it’s going to end up in a court setting,” said Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees the Bureau of Elections. “We have heard that it’s likely they will file their briefs by tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, in Louisiana yesterday, two appellate courts heard separate lawsuits filed by the Forum for Equality Political Action Committee, a homosexual-rights group, seeking to remove that state’s marriage amendment from the Sept. 18 primary ballot.

Decisions from the appellate courts are likely to come down this week and then be appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, said Merietta S. Norton, general counsel for the Louisiana secretary of state.

On Friday, the Forum for Equality PAC scored a big win in yet another lawsuit, when Civil District Court Judge Pro Tempore Christopher Bruno in New Orleans ruled to permanently block a vote on the amendment.

Judge Bruno agreed with the homosexual-rights activists’ arguments that it is unconstitutional to hold a vote on a constitutional amendment on a primary-election day because it’s not a statewide election day, as constitutionally required.

Judge Bruno also agreed with the activists that the amendment itself was unconstitutional because “it does not confine itself” to a single subject.

Louisiana’s proposed amendment 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 unions; 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.”

This means the amendment prohibits civil unions and therefore has “dual objects,” the judge wrote.

Judge Bruno’s decision also will be appealed, Ms. Norton said.

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