- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2005

Tennessee has become the fourth state to schedule a public vote on a constitutional amendment designed to block homosexuals from “marrying.”

“It’s proper for government to be involved and put a stamp of approval [on marriage] between a man and a woman,” state Rep. Bill Dunn, a Republican, said last week when members of the Tennessee House passed the marriage amendment, 88-7. The Senate approved the same measure, 29-3, in February.

As required by state law, the amendment was successfully passed by two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly, the second by a two-thirds supermajority. It now goes to a public vote in November 2006 — the same time when South Dakota voters will address a similar marriage amendment. Alabama voters are scheduled to vote on their marriage amendment in June 2006.

The only marriage amendment vote scheduled for this year is April 5 in Kansas.

Seventeen states have already changed their constitutions to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. These amendments are intended to prevent judges from using constitutional rights of equal protection for same-sex “marriages,” as a San Francisco judge did last week.

Many state marriage amendments also forbid recognition of other kinds of unions for same-sex couples, such as Vermont’s civil unions.

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are still considering marriage amendments this year, while lawmakers in Idaho and Maryland have let such measures die.

Meanwhile, traditional-values advocates in Florida, Arizona and California are in discussions to hold petition drives to get marriage amendments on ballots in those states.

In related developments, the Vermont legislature last week voted to retain three justices who were on the state Supreme Court when it issued the landmark 1999 Baker decision, in which they ruled that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to “marry” and told state lawmakers to either allow same-sex “marriage” or create a parallel system of benefits. The lawmakers created the civil union law, which went into effect in 2000.

Vermont lawmakers vote every six years whether to retain justices, and conservative activists lobbied hard to have lawmakers fire the three justices involved in the 1999 decision. The votes to retain the justices were made amid an unusually heavy security presence at the statehouse.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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