- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2005

Legislative votes on amendments to uphold traditional marriage are moving forward in Tennessee, but have been postponed in Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

This means that only one state — Kansas — is likely to have a public vote on a marriage amendment this year. That vote is scheduled for April 5.

In Tennessee, a marriage constitutional amendment appears to be on its way to a second approval by lawmakers.

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Last year, lawmakers passed the amendment by a simple majority. This time, they need a two-thirds majority to put the amendment before Tennessee voters in 2006.

Recently, both House and Senate panels passed the amendment with little dissent, and Tennessee House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat, said he wouldn’t fight the amendment.

It has overwhelming support, he told the Associated Press, “so I’m not going to stand in the way and get run over by that train.”

Wisconsin and Massachusetts also have two-session processes to send amendments to voters, and last year lawmakers in both states gave initial approval to marriage amendments. However, legislative leaders now say they don’t plan on holding their second votes until later in the year.

“It could come up as late as fall,” Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, a Republican, told the Boston Globe earlier this month.

“Extra time” is needed, Republican amendment supporters in Wisconsin recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The delay means Wisconsin lawmakers will miss today’s deadline to pass their marriage amendment in time for a public vote April 5.

Seventeen states have defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in their constitutions. Such definitions are intended to clarify for judges that same-sex couples are not permitted to “marry” in those states.

Thirteen marriage amendments occurred after the landmark November 2003 “Goodridge” decision, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found the right to same-sex “marriage” in the state Constitution.

Although Massachusetts is the only U.S. state that allows its resident homosexual couples to “marry,” lawsuits seeking similar marriage rights are under way in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington state.

To date, homosexual plaintiffs have won lower-court decisions in Washington and New York City, but lost in New Jersey and upstate New York. In Indiana and Florida, homosexual couples have decided to drop their marriage lawsuits after adverse court rulings.


• In addition to Tennessee, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, at least 11 other states ” Alabama, California, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Washington ” have active marriage amendment bills. Virginia passed its marriage amendment this year, but needs a second legislative approval next year to get it to voters in 2006.

• Conservative groups in Florida and Arizona have announced plans to conduct petition drives to get marriage amendments on their 2006 ballots.

• Bills to legalize same-sex “marriage” have been introduced by Democratic lawmakers in California, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

• Lawsuits challenging state marriage amendments have been filed in Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oregon.

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