At least 16 states likely will wrestle with same-sex “marriage” in 2006 as the issue enters its third year at the forefront of national debate since Massachusetts’ high court ordered the state to become the first in the country to “marry” homosexual couples.
As many as 10 states could see campaigns on amendments to uphold traditional marriage as the union of a man and a woman, while homosexual couples in seven states have filed lawsuits seeking the right to marry.
One state — California — already expects to see both lawsuits and amendment campaigns.
Homosexual-rights groups are eager to defeat California’s marriage amendments because it would “blunt the momentum of these amendment battles,” said Seth Kilbourn, leader of the Marriage Project for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Also, “let’s not forget that California lawmakers passed a [homosexual]-marriage bill this year,” said Mr. Kilbourn, referring to legislation that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed in September.
“If we can defeat the ballot measure, I think we can move forward again with that bill,” he said.
Leaders of California’s marriage-amendment campaigns, protectmarriage.com and VoteYesMarriage.com, have warned that their measures must go before voters so they can speak on marriage.
However, the VoteYesMarriage.com campaign is still in its fundraising stage and protectmarriage.com officials said late last week that they had not collected enough signatures to meet tomorrow’s deadline.
Elsewhere, four states — Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee — are scheduled to hold votes on marriage amendments in 2006, although Tennessee’s proposal has been challenged in court.
In addition, lawmakers in Wisconsin and Virginia are likely to approve marriage amendments while petition drives in Arizona, Florida and Illinois may put amendments before voters as well.
In the courts, homosexuals’ lawsuits are under way in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington state.
The Washington decision is considered imminent.
Homosexual-rights supporters say a favorable decision would have even more impact than the 2003 Massachusetts ruling because Washington has no residency rules for marriage. In that event, homosexual couples from anywhere would be free to “marry” in that state.
Regardless of state activities, the issue eventually will come down to a federal definition of marriage, says Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), which is promoting a “marriage protection” amendment to the U.S. Constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“We’re in a race” to see which happens first — adoption of the AFM amendment or a court decision that strikes down that traditional definition and mandates same-sex “marriage,” he said.
This race will accelerate in 2006, he added, and “we don’t know who will win.”