Saturday, February 14, 2004

The Virginia House of Delegates yesterday voted 79-18 to pass a bill that would affirm the state’s ban on homosexual “marriage” as eight same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses at Richmond Circuit Court, just blocks from the State House.

“Homosexual couples were getting marriage licenses as fast as they could print them out in California,” said state Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Fairfax County Republican. “We are one federal judge’s ruling away from importing those marriages into Virginia.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

In California yesterday, hundreds of homosexuals flocked to San Francisco, where city officials for the second day issued marriage licenses authorized by Mayor Gavin Newson. Attorneys for traditional-values groups filed papers seeking restraining orders for Mr. Newsom and County Clerk Nancy Alfaro.

The case was heard by Superior Court Judge James L. Warren, who held the hearing over until Tuesday to allow more briefing papers to be filed. (Monday — Presidents Day — is a federal holiday).

This left the door open for more homosexual “marriages” because, for the first time, the San Francisco county clerk’s office will be open today for Valentine’s Day ceremonies.

Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, which was represented by Liberty Counsel, was disappointed by the delay. Mr. Newsom “has no authority to issue counterfeit licenses,” he said.

The Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Marriage Law, representing the Proposition 22 Legal and Education Fund, also joined the suit. Proposition 22 is a ballot initiative approved by California voters that strengthened the state’s definition of marriage as only the union between a man and a woman.

In Virginia yesterday, lawmakers said the commonwealth needs to strengthen its laws banning same-sex “marriage” because the Massachusetts judiciary, which in November legalized homosexual “marriage,” and this week’s officially sanctioned “marriages” in San Francisco are threatening the sanctity of marriage across the nation.

“I’m reading the signs of the times accurately,” said the bill’s author, Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican. “We’ve got to have this law.”

Now that Canada is “marrying” same-sex couples and Massachusetts’ high court has legalized homosexual “marriage,” the tide is turning, activists said.

“Public opinion in the United States is moving rapidly toward supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. … If you project that forward, it’s inevitable that, sooner or later, the country will come to the conclusion that yes, same-sex couples belong as equal partners,” said Jim DeLaHunt, policy director for Marriage Equality California, which is sponsoring a rally in Sacramento today.

Indeed, San Francisco’s two days of licenses marked an unprecedented victory for homosexual activists, who have been vainly seeking marriage licenses on Feb. 12 “Freedom to Marry Day” since 1998.

Other homosexual “marriage” rallies are planned for Atlanta; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Seattle; Charleston, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Dallas; Clinton, Iowa; Denver; and Philadelphia.

In recent days, many same-sex couples across the country have applied for marriage licenses despite the law. In Richmond, the eight couples denied marriage licenses joined more than 50 supporters of same-sex “marriage” in a rally for equal rights.

Homosexual rights activists said they don’t understand the furor against same-sex “marriages.”

“I’m afraid there are quite a number of folks who seem to find it necessary to be angry when we are promoting love,” said the Rev. Robin Gorsline, pastor of Richmond’s Metropolitan Community Church, an organizer of the same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses yesterday.

Mr. Gorsline agreed that marriage is “under attack” but said that has nothing to do with homosexuals, citing high divorce rates, domestic violence and child abuse as issues that threaten marriage’s sanctity.

This weekend, a Virginia Senate Rules subcommittee is scheduled to hold hearings on two resolutions that would call on Congress to create a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between only a man and a woman. “Marriage has been under attack for a very long time,” said Mr. Cuccinelli.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, lawmakers set March 11 as the date they would resume their debate on amendments to define marriage in their constitution.

In a debate that ran throughout Wednesday and until midnight Thursday, the 199 lawmakers rejected three versions of a marriage amendment and failed to vote on a fourth.

• Tarron Lively in Washington contributed to this report.

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