Saturday, January 6, 2007

The legislative approval of a marriage constitutional amendment in Massachusetts last week means that at least three states have a good chance of having such measures on their 2008 ballots.

But this is a considerably smaller crop of amendments than in previous elections, and there are signs that the state amendment strategy may have run its course.

The push to get voters to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in state constitutions started in 1998, when traditional-values activists in Hawaii and Alaska used the tactic to overrule state Supreme Court decisions legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

The amendment strategy took off after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex “marriage” in November 2003, and now 27 states have voter-approved marriage amendments.

But no other state court has followed the Massachusetts court — in fact, nine recent court decisions have upheld state marriage laws — “so, yes,” the issue has “died down,” said Glen Lavy of the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based legal organization active on same-sex “marriage” cases.

“But that doesn’t mean that people are less interested … and don’t forget California,” he said. The California Supreme Court will hear arguments on its same-sex “marriage” case this spring. If it reverses the state appellate court and finds a constitutional right to same-sex “marriage,” “there will be a marriage amendment on the [California] ballot next year,” Mr. Lavy said.

Meanwhile, of the 23 states without marriage amendments:

• Florida, Indiana and Massachusetts are on track to put an amendment before voters in 2008. Florida has an amendment petition drive under way; lawmakers in the other states must pass the amendments a second time before they can be put before voters.

• Lawmakers in Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Pennsylvania debated but failed to pass amendments in their last sessions. Amendment bills could resurface, but would face strong opposition.

• New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and California Assemblyman Mark Leno have taken stands in favor of legalizing same-sex “marriage.” In 2005, California lawmakers made history when they passed a bill creating “gender-neutral” marriage. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, saying the people or the courts should decide the issue. Last year, Rhode Island lawmakers introduced pro-homosexual “marriage” bills for the ninth time, homosexual rights advocates said.

• In Illinois, a petition drive to put a nonbinding marriage amendment on the 2006 ballot failed, and the Arizona marriage amendment was defeated at the polls. It’s not known if Illinois activists will try for another amendment, but Mr. Lavy said that “there’s a good chance” a new Arizona amendment will appear.

• Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont appear to have settled the same-sex “marriage” issue by enacting civil union laws, and there are signs New Hampshire lawmakers may follow suit.

• Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming do not appear to have much, if any, activity on the amendment issue.

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