- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The nation’s second vote on a state marriage amendment, scheduled for Saturday in Louisiana, could be postponed in parts of the state if Hurricane Ivan comes too close, a state agency spokesman said yesterday.

If there’s “a catastrophic event — multiple parishes affected — we would likely postpone the election in certain areas that are most directly affected,” said Scott Madere, spokesman for Secretary of State W. Fox McKeithen.

But the rest of the state would go to the polls to elect local leaders and decide whether to define marriage in the state constitution. Election results would be withheld until all the votes were in, a scenario that occurred two years ago, when Hurricane Lili ravaged the Gulf Coast a few days before the Oct. 5 election.

The Louisiana amendment would effectively block Louisiana judges from legalizing marriage for homosexuals, as Massachusetts judges did in that state last November. It also would outlaw other kinds of marriagelike unions for same-sex couples.

Homosexual and civil liberties groups oppose the amendment, saying it writes discrimination into the state constitution, and put up a vigorous but unsuccessful legal fight to prevent the amendment from being voted on.

The amendment is expected to pass by a wide margin, similar to what happened in August, when Missouri voters passed the nation’s first marriage amendment with 71 percent support.

If Louisiana’s amendment passes, however, it is virtually guaranteed another court challenge.

Constitutional amendments are supposed to address only one issue, say lawyers with the Forum for Equality Political Action Committee. But the proposed amendment, which was written by lawmakers, illegally addresses two issues — homosexual “marriage” and civil unions — and forces voters to vote yes for both or no for both, they say.

Earlier this month, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. voted with his colleagues to let stand an appellate court ruling allowing a vote on the amendment, but he also said questions about the amendment’s purpose may be revisited “in a post-election challenge.”

In 2002, Louisiana officials postponed an election until Oct. 12 in 10 parishes to allow time for power to be restored, water to recede and local officials to prepare for the election.

Hurricane Ivan is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning somewhere along the 400 miles of Gulf Coast. Louisiana officials yesterday set mandatory evacuations for several parishes and urged residents of New Orleans to evacuate as well.

Marriage amendments are on Nov. 2 ballots in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah; another is pending in Ohio.

However:

• In Oklahoma, lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed a challenge to the amendment. They had a hearing last week with a referee for the state Supreme Court and are awaiting a decision.

• In Ohio, state officials are set to validate signatures for a marriage amendment on Sept. 23. Amendment supporters now expect to fall short of the 322,899 signatures needed, but have 10 days — and more than 100,000 extra signatures — to meet any shortfall.

• In Arkansas, the Arkansas Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Sept. 23 on an ACLU lawsuit challenging that state’s marriage amendment.

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