Monday, November 29, 2004

December will be a busy month for homosexual “marriage” issues as courts in Oregon and California consider the fate of about 7,000 same-sex “marriages” and a Louisiana court considers the legality of a newly passed marriage amendment.

The Louisiana case is up first, with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday before the state Supreme Court.

In October, Louisiana District Court Judge William Morvant ruled that the marriage amendment, which passed Sept. 18, was unconstitutional because it defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibited recognition of “any union of unmarried individuals.”

Judge Morvant agreed with homosexual rights lawyers that the amendment illegally contained more than one subject. Louisiana lawmakers who wrote the amendment say it was legal and have appealed the case.

The case is being watched closely because similar anti-amendment lawsuits have been filed in Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Oregon’s case, scheduled for Dec. 15 before the Oregon Supreme Court, also tests a new marriage amendment.

In the spring, Multnomah County officials, citing constitutional equal-rights protections, began marrying couples regardless of their sex. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly filed a lawsuit seeking full “marriage” rights for homosexual couples, and traditional values groups countersued to stop the county clerks from issuing such licenses.

In April, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Frank Bearden stopped the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses. But he also ruled that the 3,000 same-sex licenses already issued must be registered by the state and that the legislature should resolve the bigger issue of marital rights for same-sex couples.

The Bearden decision was appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court. In the meantime, Oregon residents voted Nov. 2 to add a sentence to their constitution saying, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.”

The high court asked for updates on the ACLU lawsuit, and on Nov. 17, ACLU lawyers said they would ask the high court to legalize some form of civil union — not “marriage” — for same-sex couples.

The state, they added, “is still obligated to fully recognize” the 3,000 Multnomah “marriages,” as the new amendment “cannot retroactively undo these valid marriages.”

Leaders of the conservative Defense of Marriage Coalition want the high court to reverse Judge Bearden’s recognition of the 3,000 “marriages,” because the licenses were issued in violation of state law.

The rest of the ACLU lawsuit should be dismissed, the conservative lawyers said, because the ACLU argued against allowing civil unions in its earlier briefs.

“You can’t change your request two-thirds of a way through a lawsuit,” coalition lawyer Kelly Clark told the Oregonian newspaper.

Finally, in California, on Dec. 22, a lawsuit seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples has a hearing before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer.

This case is expected to reach the California Supreme Court, perhaps within a year. This summer, the high court voided about 4,000 same-sex “marriages” conducted in San Francisco this spring. However, if the high court eventually ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex “marriage,” those couples could reapply for legal licenses.

California doesn’t define marriage in its constitution, but in 2000, its voters passed a law that cannot be overturned by legislators that says that only marriage between a man and a woman can be valid or recognized.

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