Sunday, January 16, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Encouraged by the success of anti-homosexual “marriage” referendums in 13 states, same-sex union opponents say they plan to push for a state constitutional amendment banning homosexual “marriage.”

Homosexual-rights supporters, meanwhile, are supporting legislation of their own. Both sides plan to rally Jan. 27 in Annapolis to try to sway lawmakers.

“National momentum can only go so far,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, a traditional-values lobbying group. “Ultimately, it comes down to the people on the ground, in their counties, putting pressure on their legislators.”

The group is urging its supporters to attend the rally, drumming up support, in part, through a string of 10 Christian radio stations statewide on which its broadcasts air.

Among the proposals being supported by homosexual-rights advocates is one that would extend the rights of homosexual couples to make some health care decisions for each other — decisions usually made by relatives, including spouses.

“We have a lot more work to do to get it out to people that we’re not the bad guys,” said the Rev. Harris Thomas, founding pastor of the Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore.

Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat and head of the House Judiciary Committee, said he personally opposes homosexual “marriage,” but was unlikely to support an amendment banning the practice.

Mr. Vallario said amendments are usually considered only in election years and state law already defines marriage as a union between a man and woman. Mr. Vallario said he would consider an amendment only if the law appeared to be in jeopardy from the courts.

“No, I won’t do it just because a lot of people want it. That’s not the way we work,” Mr. Vallario said.

The lawmaker, however, said he expects to hold a hearing on the amendment and bring it to a vote in committee.

A constitutional amendment would require a three-fifths majority in each chamber for passage. The amendment would then have to be approved by voters.

Supporters are encouraged by the approval of homosexual “marriage” bans in all 11 states that held referendums in November and two others earlier.

Only Massachusetts allows same-sex “marriages,” while Vermont allows civil unions. Both were the result of state Supreme Court rulings.

“People in the state ought to be able to decide for themselves,” said Delegate Charles R. Boutin, a Republican representing Harford and Cecil counties, who plans to sponsor the amendment again this year.

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